Zip Into History in Silverton This Summer
by Samantha Wright
Mar 14, 2013 | 1732 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JOY RIDE – In the old days, miners would ride in ore buckets from the Mayflower Mill near Silverton to their work high above in Arastra Gulch. Now, if a local zip line developer has his way, the historic tram line infrastructure will be put to use for a new brand of adventure. (Photo courtesy of the San Juan County Historical Society)
JOY RIDE – In the old days, miners would ride in ore buckets from the Mayflower Mill near Silverton to their work high above in Arastra Gulch. Now, if a local zip line developer has his way, the historic tram line infrastructure will be put to use for a new brand of adventure. (Photo courtesy of the San Juan County Historical Society)
slideshow

SILVERTON – If all goes according to plan, thrill-seekers young and old will be flocking to Silverton this summer for a chance to fly along a totally unique, mile-long zip line course that blends history with high adventure.

Durango-based zip line developer Cameron Winters is partnering with the San Juan County Historical Society to use the historic Mayflower Mill tram line and its easement for the project.

“We are still working on it; it’s not a done deal yet,” Winters stressed.

Currently, Winters and his team are jumping through regulatory hoops with the State of Colorado and the Bureau of Land Management, and finalizing the details of the zip line’s design.

“Basically, we are trying to keep with the history of the tram line,” he said.

The Mayflower Mill tram is one of the most-intact historic tram lines still in existence in the American West, and the only all-metal tram line ever built in the San Juans. In its day, the gravity-powered tram delivered ore from the Mayflower Mine high in Arastra Gulch to the mill near the Animas River far below.

“In the old days, people would ride in the ore buckets up to the mine,” Winters said.

Now, instead of riding up, they’ll be zipping down, dangling from a harness rather than standing in a bucket.

The total tour will take about an hour and a half, and will include “ground school” (a briefing on how the equipment works), and a shuttle ride up the road to Arastra Gulch where the adventure gets underway at an elevation of about 11,000 feet.

Some of the spans will connect to existing tram towers, and some will connect to towers which Winters will have to construct himself. If approved, the zip line will include the longest span in Colorado – 2,058 feet – as well as being one of the highest and fastest of its kind. Riders will at times be suspended up to 100 feet from the ground as they fly along at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.  

Four spans later, riders will finish their adventure back at the Mayflower Mill after a final thrilling flight across the Animas River. Afterwards, they will be treated to a guided tour of the historic Mayflower Mill (a National Historic Landmark now owned by the San Juan County Historical Society), and will learn how the ore was moved from the mine in Arastra Gulch via the tramline to the mill below.

”It was a pretty amazing engineering feat,” Winters said. “It’s one of the most historically significant tram lines still standing; there are not many in existence at all.”

Winters is already familiar with the many ins and outs of the zip line industry. He owns and operates Full Blast Adventure Center, which for the past four years has offered a canopy zip line adventure on Highway 160 near Durango. When he decided to expand to the Silverton area, he approached the Town of Silverton and was referred to the San Juan County Historical Society.

He met with key SJCHS players to present his idea, “and we came up with an agreement,” he said.

It may seem like an odd partnership, but SJCHS officials are just as excited about it as is Winters.

“Man, that last span across the river will be something!” said SJCHS President Bev Rich. She is equally thrilled about what the zip line could do for the local economy. “Ridership on the train (the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad) has gone down,” Rich said. “If we can attract a new demographic, that’s super. It would be great for us to not be so train-dependent in our summer economy.”

If it flies, the zip line will also help out the Historical Society, to which Winters has pledged to donate $10 from every $99 ticket sale.

Rich stressed that the zip line infrastructure will not permanently affect the historic tram towers, and can easily be dismantled and removed without a trace.

The zip line industry has expanded dramatically in recent years, with new zip lines popping daily in cool places around the world. “I think it’s an activity that’s here to stay,” Winters said. “It’s very green; it’s a great way to get to explore the surrounding countryside and it has got the adrenaline. Once you’ve done one, you don’t want to quit.”

Winters hopes his Mayflower zip line will be ready in time for the coming summer season. “Construction-wise it isn’t an issue; it’s all about permitting,” he said. “They move at their own pace.” Which unfortunately, is not always zippy.

“Every day we’re moving through the process.” 

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet