History of Platoro!

Founded in the early 1880’s, Platoro was a mining town known for its Gold and Silver, which were discovered together near the headwaters of the Conejos River.

“A Quick History of Platoro, Colorado”, a Historic account written by Leland Feitz, recalls tales of mining ventures, saloons, gambling establishments and the wild-west Saturday nights.

Platoro obtained its name from the combination of the Spanish words “plata” and “oro” (Gold and Silver).

The founders of the town of Platoro never had plans for it to ever become a real city. However, Platoro had a few log saloons, gambling places and even a dance hall. The town also had a post office, barber shop, blacksmith and livery stables.

By 1900, the population of Platoro had grown to about 300 - except during the winters when everyone left the town due to the harsh winters.

Many claims were staked out in the area. The largest mine was the Mammoth. It's veins of ore were the largest. Ore was packed out of Platoro using burros. The Mammoth mine produced about $250,000 of ore between 1889 and 1906. That is over $66 Million in today's value. The gold and silver rush was for real.

By 1906, Platoro was basically abandoned. The belief was that the riches of the area had been mined and taken away. The discovery of gold on Klondike Mountain in 1912 gave Platoro a second life. In the late spring of 1913, hundreds of miners arrived in Platoro. Many of the businesses returned and housing was so limited that many of the people had to pitch tents. Large tents were set up to hold new saloons, stores, restaurants and sleeping areas for rent. Even a local newspaper, The Platoro Miner, was published. Daily mail came up from Monte Vista and a Doctor set up a one-room hospital and drug store in his cabin. There was even regular stage coach service from The San Luis Valley.

The summer of 1913 was the best summer the town of Platoro had ever seen. The 4th of July celebration opened with a parade and the day sported boxing matches, games, horse races, a huge dance and a fireworks display. However, by the end of the summer of 1913, it was believed that the ore was again depleted and the town was once again abandoned before the winter.

1916 and 1917 saw a few more small gold rushes, but the miners could not figure out how to get any more gold or silver out of the mountains and down the hill and still make a profit. It wasn't until 1959, when the Mammoth Mine was taken over and worked again, did Platoro see very much activity. But it was fishing and hunting that made Platoro a lasting destination spot. By the late 1940's, The Skyline Lodge had been built and could accommodate guests in comfort. By 1951, the Platoro Dam was completed creating the highest man-made reservoir in North America. This Dam at 10,034 feet elevation backed the waters of the Conejos River up 7 miles and became the fishing hot spot for the area with annual stocking of Rainbow, Kokonee and German Brown trout. Boating on the reservoir is still popular today.

The Fall Season brings out the hunters. The local guide has been keeping an eye on the game thru the Summer and knows where the hot spots are located. The fishing is still good, too. By November of each year, the town is usually vacated for the Winter as a normal snow season will bring in over 60 inches of the white stuff.

So whether you are looking for beautiful scenery, fresh, clean air, great fishing, horse-back trips to the Continental Divide, camping, hunting or just a great relaxing vacation, Platoro offers it all. Take a hike or a guided horseback trip to the secluded campsites where the trails are laced with abandoned gold mining caves.

Platoro is now a Summer Vacation spot that only avid outdoorsmen and women (and die-hard vacationers) choose to enjoy.

The easiest way to get to Platoro is by taking the Conejos Canyon from Antonito off of HWY 17. There are a few other ways to get there from other directions. Another favorite is south of Monte Vista on HWY 15 about 12 miles - just after the pavement ends. It's another 35 miles or so on some slow-going dirt road thru the old towns of Jasper and Stunner, up over Stunner pass and then you drop into Platoro from above. It is a truly breath-taking route and one that has to be experienced to be appreciated.

The seclusion and beauty are known only to the lucky few.

You may even catch a case of “Gold Fever”!

 Other Area Attractions

  • Platoro Reservoir is the highest man-made lake in North America. Elev - 10,034

  • Platoro Town: Elev - 9,900

  • Conejos Peak: Elev - 13,172

  • Red Mountain: Elev - 12,018

  • Mammouth Mountain: Elev - 11,385

  • Cornwall Mountain: Elev - 12,285

  • The Great Sand Dunes National Monument is located on Hwy 160, east of Alamosa, Colorado.

  • The Rio Grande National Forest is home to the spectacular San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain Ranges. They form the backdrop for the San Luis Valley, one of the largest mountain basins in the world. Elevations range from 7,800 to 14,000 feet. Indian cultures inhabiting the Forest span periods from approximately 10,000 B.C. to 1881 A.D.

  • The South San Juan Wilderness Area (165,563 acres) straddles the Continental Divide and contains numerous lakes, Elk, Deer, Mountain Lions, Bears, Coyotes, Golden Eagles and Trout.

  • The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is America’s highest narrow gauge track, running through the mountains between Antonito, CO and Chama, New Mexico. It is a National Register of Historic Places site.

  • Fort Garland, with its reconstructed historic fort, was under Kit Carson’s command during 1866-67. It is located between Alamosa and Walsenburg on Hwy 160.

  • The oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is in Conejos, near Antonito, off of Hwy 17.

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