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Mining the Past for the Future

The 1859 Rush to the Rockies started out slow — and cold. On a frigid day in January 1859, prospector George Jackson was camped on a sand bar in Clear Creek when he noticed that the frozen ground laid bare by his fire was glittering. Jackson had been at the diggings in California, and he recognized that in this case, all that glittered really was gold. Now Idaho Springs and Clear Creek County hope to capitalize on Jackson’s find by mining tourism throughout the new year. “This is a big deal,” says Phyllis Adams, who’s coordinating the 150th Gold Rush Anniversary. “Heritage tourism is such a growing part of the tourism industry.”

The festivities kick off at 1 p.m. today, when a modern-day George Jackson (actually Bill Lee, who also played Santa) with dogs and burro in tow will make the snowy trek from the spot where the original Jackson found gold to downtown Idaho Springs in time for the 2 p.m. opening ceremonies at Clear Creek Middle School. That outdoor event will be followed by a traditional (and indoor) miner’s supper of sow belly, cornbread and coffee at the Idaho Springs Elks Club, 1600 Colorado Boulevard, and then by a Fred Eaglesmith concert at the United Center at 1440 Colorado.

“We’ve joked all along that on the one hand, since Jackson made the discovery in January, that opens up the whole year for celebrating,” Adams points out. “But it would have been more convenient if he’d done it in June.” For a complete list of the year’s activities, go to
Wed., Jan. 7, 2009


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