Editorial Travel Photography – Phoenix Gold Mine, Idaho Springs Colorado

I don’t always start out with an agenda and it seems that those are the times when the best experiences happen. That was the case when I was in Colorado. I started my day with no direction, just my camera and a little lunch packed in my bag. My starting point was Denver and from there I headed west on highway 70. As usual, I ran into construction on the highway. While sitting in traffic I noticed some old mining buildings and a dirt road so instead of sitting there doing nothing I decided to get off and explore. The road was a small (almost single lane) dirt road with nobody on it leading up the mountain. I pulled off so I could take a few snaps of a building.

Gottschall travel photography

Because the road didn’t look like it was used too often, I decided to leave the car door open so I could hear the music from my radio. I didn’t think it would be a problem. But wouldn’t you believe it, my luck, the same problem my dad always had….You can be on a deserted island and there will ALWAYS be a car right behind you. A man driving a beat up old pick up truck rolled down his window and asked what I was doing and tell me that this is a private road. So I explained, like I normally do, that I am a commercial photographer on vacation just taking photos. The old mining building cought my eye so I wanted to photograph it. He was very kind and told me that this area is part of the Pheonix Gold Mine. He said that I am welcome to photograph the area and that the mines are open for tours. As we continued talking about the history of the mines and the area he told me about a new section where they had just found a Resurrectuon vein. He offered to be my guide for the day and point out some interesting places where I could get photos. I agreed and we went to the new section of the mine that was not open to the public.

Gottschall editorial portrait

This was my guide, Loldon.

 After suiting up in a jumpsuit, hard hat and miners light , my guide lifted the gate and we descended down a long steep ladder that was covered by a very heavy gate. It was so tight I had to hold my camera bag in front of me close to my body just to fit. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not very wide. We finally made it to the bottom and it was pitch black. The only light was the light from our helmets and the flash of my camera. The walls glissened like stars on a moonless night. It was amazing! 


Pointing out a vien.

Gottschall-Photography-Pheonix-10 Gottschall-Photography-Pheonix-11



The next thing my guide wanted to show me was an even newer section. They just opened it up after being closed after FDR ordered the closing of all US gold mines in ’42 (Executive Order L-208). He was very excited about the mine  because of the forming stalactites and the possibility of finding gold. 

date of gold mine

The date of the mine burned into the wall.


It was dark, wet and caving in. The wood supports were rotting and didn’t seem to be doing much. I was told to not touch anything for fear that it would cause a cave in. I didn’t touch a thing. 

Floor of the mine.

Floor of the mine. The mine was extremely wet and muddy. There were lots of puddles and debris. We had to be careful since it was pitch black except for our headlamps and my flash.


Support beam holding up the roof of the cave. The wood was mostly rotted and not doing much good.


Inside of the mine. Notice the wood supports are no longer touching the ceiling.


The ceiling and walls were covered with formations of stalactites. We climbed up and into many crevices to see the different varieties.


The white substance on the ceiling looked like milk that was pouring through the cracks from above.



Crystals forming on the walls.


Mine wall covered in stalactites.

Covering the floor and avery other flat surface were other formations.Gottschall-Photography-Pheonix-6Gottschall-Photography-Pheonix-12


This was one of the original rails for the cars to haul out the rock. It leads tot he next level down. It was so rusty that when it was touched (by my guide, not me) it just broke off and fell down the chute. It took a long time before we heard it hit the bottom. I’m glad Loldon didn’t go down with it. 



Hanging out with another miner, showing him what we found.



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