Silver Cliff

Silver Cliff was a famous silver-mining camp in central Custer County. The silver strike here was so rich that the population boomed and
Silver Cliff became the third largest town in Colorado  Territory (after Denver and Leadville) for a while. Around the time of statehood, the
politicos even entertained the idea of making Silver Cliff the state capitol. Silver Cliff took the county seat from Rosita in 1886 but lost it to
Westcliffe in 1928.

This was a rough and rowdy town in those early days. The big mine was the Silver Cliff Mine, later known as the Geyser Mine. The mine
might have been profitable except for the actions of certain East Coast stock manipulators. Shares in the mine were first promoted and
sold by a James R. Keene of New York. Keene was reasonably famous as a scam operator and he took the company into bankruptcy
within a few years. Then the property was sold to the Julianna Mining Company, run by a Dr. Richard C. Flower of Boston. Flower was even
more unscrupulous in his stock promotions and sales and he also took the company into bankruptcy, in 1888. Shareholders then rescued
the company and renamed it the Geyser Mining Company, but the primary operators were more of Flower's cronies. In the end, the mine
never turned an official profit. At one time, though, it was the deepest mine in the state of Colorado.

Mining continued here long after the Gold Bugs succeeded in getting the United States to go off the silver standard and onto the gold
standard in 1893 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed (a political action that wiped out many silver millionaires and
created many gold millionaires overnight - quite a few federal politicians made out very well on this one, too).

When General Palmer and Co. brought in the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, they did their usual thing: they bought cheap land just west
of Silver Cliff and built their railhead there. Eventually, that forced nearly all business to relocate to Westcliffe onto land they had to buy
from the railroad.

Sooner or later, though, the mines played out and cattle ranching took over as the primary industry in the area. At that point, Silver Cliff
started to dwindle away, although the town is now seeing a resurgence of population as Custer County becomes more well-known for its
spectacular scenery and laid-back lifestyle.

Today, Silver Cliff is bit bigger than Westcliffe in terms of population, although Westcliffe is still the business center of the county and the
government center, too. As usual, I drove around town taking photos of things that drew me, and things that draw me aren't necessarily
representative of the entire town but they do tend to be somewhat historical in nature... or somehow otherwise important (in my own mind,
at least).

Silver Cliff is commonly linked with its sister city, Westcliffe. The two towns are connected, and often appear as one. Located on the scenic
Colorado 96, southwest of Pueblo, Silver Cliff is part of the Frontier Pathway Scenic and Historic Byway. A notable route once traveled by
Native Americans, explorers, and homesteaders, Frontier Pathways is today a spectacular driving route. Along it visitors can expect
landscapes ranging from green meadows to snow-capped mountains and historic structures ranging from mining remnants to Victorian

Silver Cliff was once one of the state's largest boomtowns, and some remaining structures, including an old school, the original town hall,
and a fire station, reflect that important era. There are also few shops and eateries in downtown. Travelers will find everything from
Western wear and turquoise jewelry to antiques and works by local artisans. There's also an inn, convenience store, and several nice town
parks. Westcliffe offers most of the lodging properties in the area.

Nearby attractions include the San Isabel National Forest and the Wet Mountains. Hiking trails abound here, but the most famous pathway
is the Rainbow Trail, which winds for miles through the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Several nearby 14,000-foot peaks will also
pose a challenge for climbers, and mountain lakes in the area will provide the perfect setting for a lazy afternoon of fishing.

                                                          Silver Cliff Cemetery

The Silver Cliff Cemetery was created in the early 1880's and is located about one-half mile south of State Hwy 96 on Mill Street. It is
owned and operated by the Town.

The cemetery is famous for it's unexplained "dancing blue lights" seen on occasion and featured in the August 1969 National Geographic
Magazine, Volume 136, No. 2.

The cemetery is currently about 40% occupied with plots still available. Plots are 10' x 12'6" and cost $100 each.

For more information, contact the Town Clerk at 719-783-2615 or

Both of these photos are from the website:


Famous for its mysterious lights first seen around 1890.  The floating lights of various colors are reportedly best seen on a dark overcast
night.  Investigated in 1963 by National Geographic, the phenomena was written up in National Geographic, but no explanation for the
lights was offered in the article.

Famous for its mysterious lights first seen around 1890. The floating lights of various colors are reportedly best seen on a dark overcast
night. Investigated in 1963 by National Geographic, the phenomena was written up in National Geographic, but no explanation for the lights
was offered in the article.

Here is an excerpt from National Geographic Magazine's August 1969 volume:

                                                                   Eerie Lights Await Explanation

I recall quite vividly the last such town I visited before leaving Colorado - a place called Silver Cliff in the Wet Mountain Valley West of
Pueblo. Today it counts about 110 year-round residents, where once 5,000 lived.

"Be sure to get there after dark," a fellow camper from Kansas had told me, "and drive out to the old cemetery. You'll see something mighty

We had bounced about a mile out of Silver Cliff across pitch-black prairie when Bill Kleine, who runs the local campground, told me to pull
up and switch my headlights off.

"Do you believe it?" I asked him. "About the lights in the graveyard?"

"I've seen them plenty of times. This is a good night for them... overcast, no Moon."

We climbed out beside the old burying ground and for long minutes I strained to see something, anything. Slowly, vague outlines of grave
markers emerged, in ragged rows.

"There." Bill's voice was quiet, almost a whisper. "And over there!"

I saw them too. Dim, round spots of blue-white light glowed ethereally among the graves. I found another, and stepped forward for a better
look. They vanished.

For 15 minutes we walked about the place, pursuing one will-o'-the wisp, then another. I aimed my flashlight at one eerie glow and switched
it on. It revealed only a tombstone.

"Some people think it's phosphorescence," said Bill. "You know, from decaying wood in the crosses or something. Others say it's just
reflections from the lights of Silver Cliff, or Westcliffe down there."

I looked back at the two towns. Those small clusters of lights seemed far too faint to reflect way out here. Still, it was possible.

"Only trouble is," said Bill, "my wife and I have both seen these lights when the fog was so thick you could not see the towns at all."

No doubt someone, someday, will prove there's nothing at all supernatural in the luminous manifestations of Silver Cliff's cemetery. And I
will feel a tinge of disappointment.

I prefer to believe they are the restless stirrings of the ghosts of Colorado, eager to get their Centennial State on with it's pressing
business: seeking out and working the bonanzas of a second glorious century.

                                                            Story from the Pueblo Chieftain:

October 31st, 2002

The ghost lights of the Silver Cliff Cemetery are said to be visible on dark nights, dancing above the headstones.

Jim Little, editor of the Wet Mountain Tribune, said he saw the lights when he was a child and as a young adult.

"There are these ‘kinda’ silver-dollar sized lights that can be seen on dark nights when people go out there," he said. "It's not a bunch of
lights, it's just a few of them. You see them and they kind of bounce around over the headstones."

People in the ’50s and ’60s tried to figure out what caused the lights, Little said. They turned off the streetlights in Silver Cliff to see if the
lights were just strange reflections. They watched to see if the lights had anything to do with the phase of the moon.

No dice, explanation-wise. A National Geographic story in the ’80s said the lights might be caused by some kind of phosphorescence from
a natural mineral or something.

"Then again it just might be ghosts," Little said.

Little hasn't been back to see the lights since he's become an adult, and that's OK with him.

"I don't know if I want to go out there as a grown man and blow it now," he said.

Source: The Pueblo Chieftan, October 31st, 2002

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