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Oil Springs Tunnel Trail, Pikes Peak, Colorado  

 Colorado Springs, Colorado 

Other Trails on this Route:

Barr Camp Trail

Elk Springs Trail

Oil Springs Tunnel Trail

Pikes Peak Hill Climb

 

 

 

The Oil Spring Tunnel

The tunnel was driven by mining men who were seeking a short cut thru the mountains from Cripple Creek. The prospectors hoped to overcome the necessity of hauling their ore over narrow and steep roads from Cripple Creek to smelters at Colorado Springs.

 

     

 

Trip Details:


   

Directions:  

Trailhead: From From Barr Camp follow the Elk Park Trail 4.5 miles north.  Turn back to the southwest toward Pikes Peak and walk .5 miles through two washes and up the hill until you can go no further.

On the map below, the trail is not shown, but is near the V2 on the Northwest Slopes route.

Of course, the other way to get to the Tunnel is to drive the Pikes Peak Highway to Elk Park and take the trail south.  Buit, you miss the best part and valley.  

Map Pikes Peak 

Summary:


Highlights:


Large steam boiler, cabin ruins, artifacts, tunnel into the mountain.

Near:

Colorado Springs, CO

Scenery:

Snow fields, mining site, north face of Pikes Peak.

Distance:

.4 miles

Elevation Gain:

300 feet to 11, 285'

Hike Time:

20 minutes to site, 20 minutes back

Difficulty:

Easy

Trail Condition:

Some trail

Hike Type:

Up, and back. 

 

 

 

  

Sign .5 Miles to Oil Springs.

Distance from Barr Camp to Trailhead: 4.5 miles
Distance from Trailhead to Oil Springs: .4 miles

Elevation 11,285

 

 

Steam Boiler and Wheel

Built in 1899

1,593 feet long

History (more history is below, but this is such an exciting story)

 From the December 12, 1937, Gazette and Telegraph, now called The Gazette, as follows:

Oil Creek Tunnel into Pikes Peak to become tourist attraction

Pikes peak’s famous Oil Creek tunnel, which has been seen by few people, will be another big attraction next year when the forest service builds its trail there.

Two miles off the main highway, at an elevation of 11,000 feet, is a tunnel going 800 feet into the solid granite of the mountain.

The tunnel is virtually unknown, altho it has been there since 1890, when a group of Cripple Creek mining pioneers started boring it.

Forestry officials plan to construct a small trail leading form Glen Cove, “resting place” on the peak highway, to the tunnel, which is not easily accessible at present.

The tunnel was driven by mining men who were seeking a short cut thru the mountains from Cripple Creek. The prospectors hoped to overcome the necessity of hauling their ore over narrow and steep roads from Cripple Creek to smelters at Colorado Springs.

Blocked by the hard granite in the mountain, the miners gave up the task after penetrating 800 feet. The tunnel is six feet high and from eight to 10 feet wide.

It is believed the miners hoped to defray expenses of the task by selling ore which they would find in driving the tunnel. However, the rock was not ore-bearing.

The tunnel was driven in the northeast face of Pikes Peak and had it been completed would have penetrated four miles thru the peak to a point near Gillette, in the Cripple Creek area.

Construction of the trail to the tunnel is one of several improvements being carried out in the vicinity of Glen Cove on the automobile highway. The Peak, which formerly was privately owned, is under government management and several improvements are proposed.

Construction of the trail, in addition to making accessible the tunnel, will give visitors an opportunity to study timberline varieties of trees, flowers and other plants.

The tunnel, which was named Oil Creek, is in the center of an area used by a heard of 30 mountain bighorn sheep for grazing. Visitors will be able to see this heard, which is one of the few groups of this vanishing species in Colorado.

Many deer roam the area in the summer months and it is believed persons taking the trail to the tunnel will catch glimpses of them.

The Oil Creek tunnel is located in one of five basins, known as ice cirques, caused by glacial action.

Glen Cove is located in one of the basins and the others are named Severy, Bottomless Pit and Crater.

It is planned to construct a trail to the crater basin, two miles northwest of Glenn Cove, which is not easily accessible at present. Known as the “crags,” this area is filled with picturesque rock formations similar to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Plans on the development of the region near Glen Cove have been prepared by H. J. Hanson of the forest service. The Ski trails and other winter facilities were laid out by Robert Balch, Denver skier, who is associated with the forest service.

What a great story!  Not likely true, but ... (more to follow)

 

     

Oil Springs Tunnel

The German National Bank of Cincinnati invested in the mine and from the carriage road up Pikes Peak,  a wagon road was blazed 2 miles around the peak and down 600 feet into a gully and in March 1896 started digging (this date is disputed, and it may have been 1897-8 before "digging" the tunnel took place).

 

 

Oil Springs

Said a 1901 article in the Fairplay Flume newspaper, “At that time, there was no ore in sight and nothing but a theory to warrant the expenditure of money.”

   

 

 

Travelling into this Tunnel, that is more than a century old, was not an option for me since I had no backup.  Additionally, large amounts of water were flowing from the entrance during July.  However, others have travelled the tunnel and a complete picture tour is on the My Link link to skyrunner.com.  The entrance and tunnel has since been sealed by the Forestry Service in 2008.

http://www.skyrunner.com/story/oilcreekinside.htm

 

 

Miner's Cabin Ruins

The 1899 explosion took the life of 22-year-old Walter Johnson, who had a mother and a “sweetheart” in Buena Vista, the newspapers said, but it did not seem to slow the operation. Former miners, writing to The Gazette in the 1930s, claimed there were two accidents that killed four men, whose corpses were packed on burros to Cascade, where the coroner met them.

 

 

Snowfield in July leading to Peak


5 ton steam boiler and wheel that was formerly in a log enclosure. 

 

“A director of the company is confident that they have a regular bonanza,” said the Aspen Tribune newspaper Jan. 31, as reports went out across the state of the first-ever gold strike on Pikes Peak. Reports said the miners struck a gold vein more than 3 feet wide, with a value of $80 per ton of rock, after digging 900 feet into the peak.

The workers weren’t told of the size of the strike until the Cincinnati bankers had a chance to buy up all the surrounding land. The bankers then asked El Paso County commissioners to build a proper road to the mine, a request that was apparently denied.

Apparently, this report was someone "mining" for money from backers.

More History:

On December 19, 1937, the following story appeared in the Gazette:

Oil Creek Tunnel was only prospecting venture, says pioneer; is 1,700 feet long.

New facts about the famous Oil Creek tunnel into Pikes peak which is to become a tourist attraction next year with the opening of the new trail there were brought to light last week in a letter to The Gazette and Telegraph from Ed Armentrout, pioneer resident of Green Mountain Falls, Mr. Armentrout says:

“I have been in this region since 1835, and was here all the time that work was in progress on the tunnel, was very familiar with and acquainted with many men that worked in it.

“It is ridiculous to believe that it could or was intended to be used to haul ore from Cripple Creek as, if it had been extended thru the peak, it would have come out at an altitude of about 11,000 feet, 2,000 feet higher than Cripple Creek, and about five miles from it, and in the roughest, most inaccessible part of the peak.

“This tunnel was financed, according to information available at that time, by Cincinnati capital.

“It was said then by the promoters, to be purely a prospecting venture, and as a reason for boring so far in solid granite without a lead or vein, or any mineral indications, they said that they found some rich “float” above on the surface and on the Oil Creek slope, and hoped to cut an ore deposit in the tunnel.

“I knew many men that worked in the tunnel and they said it was in about 1,700 feet instead of 800.

“In addition, I will add, that there was a wagon road built from the old Pikes peak carriage road from the lower point of the W, along about timber line, which was used to haul in heavy machinery, including an air compressor and boilers. This road is still there but most of it is filled with gravel slides and rocks.

“A pack train of burros carried supplies from Cascade over a trail up ‘Severy’ gulch.

“Several men were killed during the years it was in operation and they were packed out on burros.

“At one time, on account of extra deep snow, two were put on ice in a snow bank, until travel could be resumed on the trail.”

Yet another letter that appeared the following week on December 26, 1937:

That Oil Creek Tunnel story started pioneers’ memories; two projects great fiascos.

The Oil creek tunnel, an old mining operation on Pikes Peak, a proposed forestry trail which is to be a tourist attraction, has become the subject of an historical controversy. No one knows the thousands of dollars lost in the venture. An account of it given by Ed Armentrout, of Green Mountain Falls, in last Sunday’s Gazette and Telegraph is followed up by a somewhat different account by Elmer Kendall, 517½ North Royer street, Colorado Springs, who worked on the tunnel. He writes the Gazette and Telegraph as follows:

“In 1898 Charlie Phay had a contract to drive the Red Cross tunnel 400 feet on the south side of the peak, at timberline. He took a winter’s supply up the cog road in October. Before Christmas he gave each man a half day off to make skis to return home for the holiday. The next spring he split up his crew and packed in the necessary tools to start work on what you call the Oil creek tunnel. We did not get to the old log shack the first day, so had to shovel off the snow and make camp. Our roof was the starts. But the next evening we got to the cabin, wet to the hips and dog tired. This was in March, 1899. Work was started, road work and the building of cabins. The snow where the first cabin was built was 12 feet deep. Charlie Phay, who lives at 12 West Rio Grande street, was in full charge of all work until Sam Couples was put in charge, Mr. Phay refusing to stay. Later he had full charge of the Copper King south of Canon City.

“Those losing their livers were Sam Couples and Jack Johnson. But there was no need of carrying them out on burros, as a wagon road was built. As for burying a couple of corpses in the snow, I cannot believe that. These were all seasoned men and could cope with whatever might happen. I do know of a man who was en rout from Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs and fell over Lovers’ Leap and was not found until the next spring. As for the tunnel being in 1,700 feet, Mr. Phay and I myself do not think it was longer than about 800 feet. Oscar Sammons was the manager, and a man by the name of Hoover, manager of the Red Cross on the south side of the peak. Both tunnels were owned by Cincinnati people and Charlie Phay was in charge of both tunnels. I worked for this company in 1897, then under Mr. Phay in 1898 and the spring of 1899.

“The longer of these tunnels is said to have been made to tap a vein of fluorine quartz on Little Pikes peak, just north of the peak. The south tunnel, 500 feet long, is off Windy point on the Cog road up Pikes peak.


Why was the Oil Creek tunnel built?

This reasoning by Matt Carpenter, from the Skyrunner.com site, appears true despite a great, although impossible, story to dig to Cripple Creek.

"At any rate, Armentrout clearly says that the Cripple Creek shortcut theory is “ridiculous.” I think there are several things that help back that assertion up. First, Kendall did not refute that claim even though he did refute several others. Next, using the Pikes Peak Atlas as a guide, I have outlined and shaded an area of private land that extends from the tunnel entrance to the other side of the Pikes Peak Highway with a big area just to the north of 13,363' Little Pikes Peak. Next, I measured a compass heading of 196º (206º True North) for the tunnel which, as you can see on the map to the right, has the tunnel heading towards that same large area of private land. This would seem to validate Kendall’s claim that they were trying to tap a vein of fluorine quartz to the north of Little Pikes Peak. Finally, if they were to continue in the direction they were going until coming out at the same elevation they would have had to bore 3.5 miles to do so! This would have put them about 1 mile above Cripple Creek Reservoir #3 in the West Fork of the West Beaver Creek drainage. This would have had them going about 400' under the Wilson Reservoir #8 drainage as well."

 

The main tunnel is headed for Little Pikes Peak. It would have taken 3.5 miles of tunnel to go through the mountain in this direction.

 

 

 

my Links

SkyRunner  http://www.skyrunner.com/story/oilcreekinside.htm

Gazette http://www.gazette.com/articles/pikes_38545___article.html/trail_peak.html

Gazette http://www.gazette.com/news/peak-60229-pikes-history.html

 

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