We decided to take it easy on Sunday and explore some of the local sites near Allie’s parents’ house in Alma. First up was the Magnolia Mill and Montgomery Reservoir. This site is right off Highway 9 between Alma and Breckenridge, just below Hoosier Pass. I have driven past countless times without stopping, but it’s easily accessible and requires only a short walk, perfect for a quick visit.
We parked at the lot west of Montgomery Reservoir, just before the road becomes difficult 4wd. From here it’s only a 1/4-mile round trip walk to the Magnolia Mill on a dirt road. The mill is impossible to miss as the road goes directly underneath it.
In the late 1850s to early 1860s, gold miners and prospectors flocked to this region in an effort to strike it rich. Countless mines were excavated, a few ore-processing mills were built, and the town of Montgomery sprang up to provide housing and services to miners. The Magnolia Mill processed gold and silver ore from mines high above, brought down by aerial trams. The mill that exists today is the replacement built in 1930 after the original mill burned down. Unfortunately the mill was closed to entry a few years ago and exploration is only allowed outside.
The town of Montgomery was situated just below the Magnolia Mill. It had as many as 1,000 residents as well as hotels, various stores, cabins and tents, and of course, saloons. As the gold rushes died down, the land was sold to the town of Colorado Springs, who built the Montgomery Reservoir in 1954. Most of the town’s buildings were hauled away to be used in other parts of the county before the new reservoir was filled. The old townsite is underneath Montgomery Reservoir.
We walked along the perimeter of the reservoir to the dam on the other side, about 1.5 miles round trip. There were quite a few people out enjoying the day on the reservoir, fishing or enjoying some outdoor family time. I can only imagine how busy this area gets during tourist season.
We made one more quick stop before lunch in Alma; the Buckskin Cemetery. This is the current cemetery for the town of Alma, but it has many historic graves from the gold rush era as well. The cemetery is in the forest and a bit spooky, especially since many of the graves are unmarked, their identities lost to time. I did not take any pictures.
I would like to acknowledge that the Magnolia Mill and Montgomery Reservoir are on the ancestral land of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute).