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2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 30; former US Route 6 and Colorado State Route 91 in Silver Plume

Upon descending modern US Route 6 from Loveland Pass into Clear Creek Canyon I turned east on US 6/Interstate 70 towards Denver.  On my way back to Denver I made numerous stops at locales in Clear Creek Canyon and Clear Creek County.  The first stop was at the quasi-ghost town of Silver Plume to check out former US 6 on Water Street.  While I was in Silver Plume I stumbled upon was what part of Colorado State Route 91 on Main Street. 


This article serves as the 30th entry in the 2016 Summer Mountain Trip Series.  Part 29 covered the history of Loveland Pass and can be found below:

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Series Part 29; US Route 6 over Loveland Pass

As noted in Part 29 Loveland Pass is one of the oldest transportation corridors through the Rockies.  Loveland Pass traces it's origins back to a wagon road constructed through Clear Creek Canyon by William A.H. Loveland in 1863-1864.  The Loveland wagon road up Clear Creek Canyon to Loveland Pass was built to take advantage of the numerous mining stamp mills that popped up during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush.

Silver Plume was founded during 1870 as claims at the Pelican Mine began operations.  Silver Plume quickly grew to a peak population of about 1,000 residents but quickly declined to approximately 100 by 1890 as mining activity shifted towards Leadville.  The original alignment of the Loveland wagon road through Silver Plume was via Main Street through directly through downtown.

By 1879 the Colorado Central Railroad became interested extending the line from Georgetown west through Silver Plume to Leadville.  The solution to solve the 6% grades of Clear Creek Canyon was to reduce the grade to 3% by use of heavy switchbacks.  This series of switchbacks and curves would come to be known as the Georgetown Loop.  The Georgetown Loop was complete by 1884 which is when the first trains in Silver Plume began to arrive.  The Georgetown Loop and Colorado Central ultimately would only make it a couple miles west of Silver Plume. 

During the Auto Trail era in Colorado the road over Loveland Pass by way of Georgetown and Silver Plume appeared not to be a major corridor of travel.  No signed highways appear over Georgetown, Silver Plume, and Loveland Pass on the 1924 Rand McNally Regional Highway Map.  The Midland-Roosevlt Midland Trail is shown to climb out of Clear Creek Canyon via Berthoud Pass (future US 40) via Empire.


Georgetown, Silver Plume, and Loveland Pass appears on the route of CO 91 on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of Colorado.  CO 91 in it's original form began at US 40S in Leadville.  CO 91 from Leadville headed northeast via Fremont Pass and Loveland Pass to US 40/CO 2 in Empire.  Undoubtedly CO 91 was aligned on Main Street as topographical maps show that as the through highway during the era. 


During the 1930s US 40 through clear Creek Canyon was improved which is evidenced by bridge work on Colorado Boulevard in Idaho Springs having date stamps of "1931."  By 1937 US 6 was extended from Greeley, CO to Long Beach, CA according to USends.  US 6 absorbed the entire route of CO 91 which aligned it through Georgetown, Silver Plume, Loveland Pass, and Fremont Pass which can be seen on the 1939 State Farm Insurance Map of Colorado.  By 1940 US 6 would be rerouted from Fremont Pass to Vail Pass but Loveland Pass would remain as part of the highway.


Regarding former CO 91 on Main Street in Silver Plume; it is likely that US 6 was aligned on it for a short amount of time.  The last train from Silver Plume to Denver ran during 1938 according to georgetownlooprr.com.  After the Georgetown Loop closed it was dismantled which left an opening for a new highway alignment for US 6 to be built on Water Street.  US 6 would remain on Water Street until the highway was multiplexed onto I-70.

Silver Plume is accessed from US 6/I-70 Exit 226.  From the Exit Ramp the Silver Plume station for the Georgetown Loop is obvious on Railroad Avenue.  The Georgetown Loop was reconstructed between 1973 and 1984 as a tourism line.


A garage along Water Street had numerous vintage cars on display.




The Silver Plume Public School can be found on former CO 91 on Main Street.  The Silver Plume Public School was built during 1894 and now houses the George Rowe Museum.



Upon leaving Silver Plume I headed east on US 6/I-70 further into Clear Creek Canyon.  My next destination was close by at much more lively Georgetown. 

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 31; former US Route and Colorado State 91 through Georgetown

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