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Camp Bird 4X4 Road, CO
mini location map2005-07-26
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Camp Bird 4X4 Road, CO 
Camp Bird 4X4 Road, CO
4x4 Trip avatar Jul 26 2005
4x4 Trip13.00 Miles 1 AEG
4x4 Trip13.00 Miles1 Day         
1 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Camp Bird 4X4 Road

The Camp Bird road provides access from Ouray to the beautiful 4X4 roads of Yankee Boy Basin, Governor Basin and Imogene Pass. The road begins just off of the 1st switchback as US 550 leaves Ouray climbing south towards Red Mountain Pass and Silverton. The road parallels Canyon Creek up through the canyon and provides several spectacular drop-offs and lots of wonderful views. This road was constructed as a trail and later as a wagon road to access the silver mines of the valley that were booming there in the late 1870s. Here is some history on the area.

The road will take you past the remains of the famous Camp Bird Mine from which the road gets its name. In 1850 Thomas Walsh was born in Ireland and at the age of 19 he came to America seeking a better life. He could never have dreamed how successful he would become in the land of opportunity that was his new home. His chosen trade was carpentry and he moved from one job to the next building bridges across America. In 1878 Thomas was making money in Leadville by mining and through the purchase and operation of the Grand Hotel there.

Walsh married Carrie Bell Reed who was well known for her graceful stride. As a child she had practiced her walk by balancing a glass of water on her head. In 1893 the silver crash erased all of the Walsh's holdings and they moved to Ouray to start all over. The crash had badly affected the mines around Ouray as well and most of the silver mines had been abandoned. Showing some very astute foresight, Thomas bet on gold instead. He quietly bought up more than 100 abandoned silver claims for next to nothing and consolidated them into a single claim that he called the "Camp Bird". He started small and put his profits back into his gold mining operation. The mine quickly grew and Thomas attracted quality mine labor by providing unheard of luxuries for the miners at the mine. They enjoyed steam heat, electric lights, enameled iron beds, indoor plumbing, and marble topped sinks and ate off of fine china in the dinning hall. He also kept a library well stocked with magazines and newspapers for them.

By 1901 the 103 claims that Walsh had bought for almost nothing were producing almost $4 million dollars every year. By the end of the following year he had acquired more claims surrounding the Camp Bird and he was personally netting over $95,000 dollars a month! Having made his fortune, Thomas sold the Camp Bird later that year to the Rothschilds of London for the tidy amount of $3.5 million in cash, $.5 million in Camp Bird Stock and a 25% royalty on future profits. Thomas then moved his family to Washington D. C. where he built a 60 room mansion and became very popular in the high society circles. On the occasion of his daughter Evelyns wedding he told her to pick a wedding gift in addition to the $100,000 dollars cash that he had already given to her. Her new husbands parents, who were also very wealthy, had also given the newlyweds $100,000 dollars cash. Evelyns choice for her gift was the 92.5 carat "Star of the East" diamond for $120,000 dollars. She would later also buy the world famous "Hope" diamond. She eventually sold the Hope diamond to another buyer that donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C. where it remains on display today.

The camp bird road also takes you past the remains of the town of Sneffels founded in 1875 and at one time had a population of over 2,000 miners, gamblers, teamsters, shopkeepers, soiled doves and others that comprised an early mining boom town. The portal of the Revenue Tunnel was drilled into the mountainside here at Sneffels to access the lower reaches of the Virginius Mine perched high on the side of Governor Basin. The tunnel was used to drain the large amount of water collecting in the lower levels of the Virginius Mine that was becoming very hard to keep pumped out. This also allowed faster and easier removal of the ore being mined there. The Revenue Mill and Tunnel employed over 600 men and helped produce over 1 billion in gold and silver at today's prices.

This road, while considered a 4X4 road, can be accessed to the remains of the Camp Bird Mine and partway into Yankee Boy Basin by most cars and a careful driver.
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Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial
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Wildflowers Observation Extreme
Kelly D. McLaughlin
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