Next time you drive through the mountains and see an old mine that evokes romantic images of Colorado's gold-rush days, stop by the Idaho Springs Heritage Museum and Visitor's Center. The Clear Creek Watershed Exhibit that takes up an entire back room is a reminder of the mess mining left behind. More than a decade ago, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency decided that the thousands of mines in Clear Creek County needed cleaning up, because metals-laden run-off from the abandoned sites was contaminating the creek -- a source of drinking water for many Coloradans. The EPA declared the town and surrounding mines a Superfund site, and the residents revolted. After years of bickering over cleanup methods, the locals and the government finally agreed on a plan, and this exhibit details it. Now that's gold!
This large cave in Iron Mountain above Glenwood Springs contains about three miles of known passageways and was first opened as a tourist attraction at the beginning of the twentieth century; it was abandoned in the 1920s, then reopened in 1999. A family tour along electrically lit gravel pathways is available through some fantastic interior decorations that Martha never even dreamed of. The caves open May 1.
Another tourist cave that had been abandoned for years, Manitou offers a physically challenging wild tour that includes sections discovered as recently as five years ago. Still missing is a large section that was open to tourists, complete with electric lights and hand-rails, until it flooded in the 1920s. Check out the Web site, www.caveofthewinds.com, for an in-depth probe.
At 7,000 feet, Spring Cave, which opens May 1, is one of the longest caves in Colorado, located less than a mile from the South Fork Trailhead, east of Meeker. In springtime, the stream that flows through the cave widens to form "Emerald Lake," which makes a full wetsuit a requirement for anyone heading into the back sections.