The little town of Twin Lakes, about twenty miles south of
Leadville, began as a mining community in the 1860s but lives on as a thriving
home for several families and a popular vacation stop for campers, hikers, climbers, anglers,
boaters, photographers, historians, LT 100 runners/cyclists, and motorists on
their way to Independence Pass or Aspen via Hwy. 82.
No ghost town, this!
You've already seen photos of the lakes in this journal on
when Cody and I ran and hiked around half of the lower lake on the Colorado
Trail. If you look real closely, you can even see them in the little photo in
the upper left corner of this page, as viewed from Hope Pass, and in another photo in the
from Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest peak. The town of Twin Lakes lies at the
southeastern base of Elbert, six miles west of Hwy. 24.
In this entry, I'll emphasize the town itself, and show you
interesting scenery as you travel north toward Leadville.
First, a bit of history. Indigenous peoples have lived in
the Lake Creek Valley for thousands of years. By the 1860s the village of Dayton
was developed as a center of commerce for area miners searching for gold and a
stage stop on the way to Aspen and points west. It became the county seat for a while, until the
gold ran out and it became a virtual ghost town.
The name was changed to Twin Lakes in 1879 during the
silver boom that briefly revived the area.
After the silver boom in Leadville in the late 1870s also waned,
Twin Lakes was transformed into a popular summer resort. Interlaken Resort was built during
this time frame on the south side of the lake, catering to wealthy patrons who came to enjoy the beautiful
mountain scenery and Colorado's largest glacial lake. Several resort hotels were
also built in town.
The Interlaken Resort fell into disuse after the lakes were
dammed and the water level in the reservoir covered the area where the resort
lay. Several buildings have been restored but I don't believe visitors can stay
overnight there. The only remaining hotel in town is the Clarion, still standing
but no longer in use.
Several buildings from the 1800s situated on the south
side of Hwy. 82 in Twin Lakes are listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. There are two large informational boards on the grounds that relate the
history of the buildings and display photos from the era:
I took photos of four of the preserved buildings but was
there too early to see inside any of them. I'll try to see more someday when the
visitor center is open. It is located in the old Red Rooster Tavern, once a
popular drinking establishment and brothel. This is the view from the front:
LT100 runners may recognize Hope Pass, in the background to
the left of the visitor's center.
This is the rear of the visitor's center. There are several
picnic tables and lots of grass in this historic area, encouraging folks to stay
for a while.
The next photo shows a cabin (on the left) that once served
as the assay office. On the right is the Clarion Hotel, constructed of adobe
bricks made from native soil and straw to try to keep the building warmer in
winter and cooler in summer:
This is the Fine Cabin (right) and a shed:
This is another view of the assay office
(foreground) and Fine Cabin, with Mt. Elbert as a scenic backdrop:
Most of this side of the road is part of the San Isabel
National Forest and includes the parking area and trail used by LT100 runners to
reach Lake Creek and Hope Pass. Jim and I have been here many times, but today
was the first I've read all the informational signs nearby. (I was crewing for
him while he ran about 24 miles from the Fish Hatchery to Halfmoon to Twin Lakes
to Hope Pass to Clear Creek Canyon/Winfield Road.)
On the north side of the highway you can find a restaurant
(today's special was trout tacos - yuck!), inn, general store/grocery, cabins to
rent, and several arts and crafts stores:
There are also private residences on two streets, about
three blocks long. The runners pass through the residential area on their way to
and from the aid station located a block off the highway. Twin Lakes is a very
crowded place on race day with 500 runners coming and going, plus their crews
and pacers (pacers are allowed on the way back to Leadville).
This is my favorite photo from Twin Lakes. As I was driving
into the town this morning from the east, I noticed a barn in a field on the
south side of Hwy. 82 that I'd never seen before, mostly hidden behind trees
near the parking lot. I walked back and got this shot of the abandoned building.
I don't know how old it is, but I thought it was very photogenic:
I put the photo on our laptop desktop and waited to see how
long it would take Jim to notice I changed it. Not long! Although he's never
noticed the barn before, he recognized Hope Pass in the background AND saw
something in the large photo that I didn't see - a bird on the peak of the roof!
I couldn't have planned that.
EARLY MORNING RANCH SCENES
Speaking of barns . . .
After driving by the following collection of dilapidated
ranch/farm buildings on Hwy. 24 between Twin Lakes and Leadville for the past
two weeks, I finally stopped this morning to take some photos.
We've seen a couple other vehicles parked precariously
alongside the busy road, their occupants shooting the scene - so I know I'm not
the only one drawn to them!
It's sad to see these buildings abandoned and in disrepair, yet I'm fascinated
by their stark beauty against the backdrop of Mount Massive in the
early morning light.
It's a classic scene repeated all over America as our
society has morphed from agricultural to industrial to technical. It's hard to
sustain a ranch or family farm nowadays. I was raised (until age ten) on a hilly
farm in Ohio, land now under water in a Corps of Engineers lake, and this scene
brings back fond memories of our creek, barns, animals, and crops.
Driving by this old ranch is a nostalgia trip for me.
Today Jim wanted to run from the Leadville Fish Hatchery,
location of one of the aid stations during the Leadville Trail 100-mile race, to
the trailhead on Clear Creek Canyon Road past Hope Pass, a distance of about 25
As I was driving him to the hatchery early this morning to
begin his run, I suddenly stopped along Hwy. 24 to take this photo of Mt. Elbert
as the sun was rising, coloring the summit a bright reddish orange color:
There were a lot of low clouds that made Mounts Elbert and
Massive look quite dramatic across the fields from the highway.
Turning west onto CO-300 toward the fish hatchery, I
observed another scene that I was determined to capture after I dropped Jim off.
This ranch, still in operation, looked very serene in the early morning light
framed against Mt. Massive:
THE LEADVILE FISH HATCHERY
This fish hatchery is the second-oldest federal hatchery
still in operation in the United States. Opened in 1889, the hatchery sits on
3,072 acres of beautiful sub alpine land at the foot of Mt. Massive six miles
from Leadville. The site was chosen for its cold, clear water supply and
abundance of native cutthroat trout to use for breeding.
Although now the hatchery supplies trout only
in Colorado, it has previously distributed fingerlings all over the country.
There are two ponds, 16 raceways, 20 nursery tanks, and two ponds for public
fishing on the lower hatchery grounds.
The hatchery supports both the 100-mile bike race and the
run. It is the location of an important aid station during the run, the second
one that is inside a nice, warm building (the white building in the rear, right,
in the photo below). Runners check in here at about 23 miles outbound and 77
miles on the return.
This was the second morning recently that Jim has begun a
run from the hatchery. A few days ago we walked over to the holding tanks out
talk with a young woman who was working.
She told us the hatchery currently raises two kinds of
trout, rainbow and Snake River cutthroat, but will add a third kind next year
(green-back cutthroat) to add more variety to the lakes and streams they stock.
These are some of the 6" trout in one of the tanks:
We forgot to ask how big they much be before they are
released into area lakes and streams.
The hatchery encourages visitors and questions. They have
an educational program and offer tours of the buildings and grounds. Some of the things visitors can do are
view and feed the fish, hike miles and miles of trails, picnic, fish, use the
playgrounds, view wildlife, watch birds, take photographs, access the wilderness
(trails lead up to the Colorado Trail and the summit of Mt. Massive), ice fish,
snowshoe, and cross-country ski.
For more information about the hatchery, see their
informative website at
Next up: CT Segments 9 and 10, Tennessee Pass to