Built in 1941 near Fairplay, the Snowstorm Gold Dredge is the last of its kind in Colorado. Successful American dredging began in Montana in 1896, performing the work of several hundred men as it dug and processed ore in the gold fields. In 1905, Ben Stanley Revett was successful dredging in Colorado by giving up on products manufactured by others far from the scene. There is something to be said about “Made in Colorado,” Revett designed and built his own dredge, the steam-powered Reliance in the Breckenridge area. His machines produced about 21,902.56 ounces of gold! Dredging however, had a short lifespan in Colorado from 1906-1951. The pressure of the Great Depression and dwindling resources brought many of the dredging operations to their knees. In addition, the increased emphasis on protecting the environment added to the fall of American dredge mining.
Nominated to Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List in 2001, the Snowstorm is the largest and last dragline dredge in Colorado. Today the dredge sits in the middle of an active sand and gravel mine, and as a result, there is a constant threat that the dredge will be sold for scrap. In addition, neglect and weather damage is beginning to take its toll on the dredge. A local Historic Landmark, the dredge is in need of a new life.
Colorado Preservation, Inc. had the opportunity to make a visit to the Snowstorm and even explore inside. The dredge operates with a digging ladder, and a long boom (which is super fun/terrifying to walk the length of) with buckets that dumped gravel into a feed hopper. The hopper was were the gold was separated from the rock and the waste was ejected behind the dredge as it crawled forward. Imagine seeing this piece of machinery in action! These rock piles can still be seen east of Fairplay, and serve as evidence to the raw power of these large machines.