The Old Dam

Whilst perusing the Bulletin – United States Geological Survey, Issue 478 I saw on page 86 a tantalising glimpse of Plat V. It showed the lower portion of the Ute Ulay mine site, near the river, and on it was marked the site of the old dam. This was news to me, so I ordered a reprint of the book (the original was published in 1911) and in it was a shrunken down version of the same plat.

Up at the mine I checked as well as I could along the bank, and thought I could make out the remains of a stone wall at roughly the location indicated on the plan. You may be able to make out the the old dam below.

The image above also shows the underground working of the mine which are very extensive. This makes sense of the huge amounts of waste rock which are historical landmarks in themselves.

As a working mine, everything at the Ute Ulay changed many times over. The buildings, landform, and access routes have existed in a fluid state; altering to suit the needs of whoever worked there at the time. For me, this utilitarian attitude to place is the main character of the mine site, and it is what makes it such an engaging place now. The quiet beauty of the atmosphere there seems magnified by the knowledge that it was once a bustling place, filled with people, steam, dust, diesel fumes and noise.

Yesterday, Grant Houston, editor of Lake City’s wonderful newspaper Silver World (which started on June 19, 1875), gave me access to a stash of photographs relating to the Ute Ulay mine. As a prominent local historian, Grant has amassed quite a collection of information about Lake City – including the Ute Ulay.

As I looked through the photos, I noticed something in one of them that caught my eye.

On the far left of this image, you can clearly see the old dam referred to on Plat V from the USGS bulletin 478. It was exciting to find evidence of something that may have been otherwise forgotten. It looks as though the dam was made of large timbers. The next time I’m on mine site, I’ll have another look.The image also shows the old mill, the flumehead, and some large waste rock piles – some of which still remain.

There are a number of structures which are made of in-situ cast concrete at the mine. Part of the blacksmith’s shop and the new dam are made in exactly the same way. Another photo that Grant has, shows the building of the ‘new’ dam (see below).

Today you can still see the imprint of the timbers used in the in-situ concrete being poured in the picture above. The new dam is mentioned in the 1911 book, so must date from earlier than that.

The picture above shows the ‘new’ dam today.

The Ute Ulay is the product of accretion, and I hope that whatever comes next follows in that spirit.

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