Along the D, SP& P Railroad : Mill Gulch and Stevens Gulch

Originally Published August 17, 2009

A Reader has asked about Mill Gulch and Stevens Gulch as places to see and visit along the railroad. At first, I was baffled, so I headed off to the library and tried to find them in the card catalog. No luck. So I looked them up in the book, Place Names of Colorado and I found both mentioned as places along the railroad, but they didn’t have any indication of having been towns, or having had post offices. They weren’t even listed as having a siding (a siding being a wider area where a second rail was put in along side the main track, to allow cars to be pulled out of the train and left, or added to a train, usually for loading and unloading of goods and supplies).

 So off I went to the maps. I pulled out maps from 1870 through 1921- and luckily, on the 1887 Rand McNally map, I found Mill Gulch, just northeast along the Platte Canyon from what was then listed as Deansbury, later known as Strontia Springs. I found it again on the Claussen’s 1916 map. Stevens Gulch, however, was not so easy. So I keep wandering through the maps, and finally, on a Rand McNally 1881 map, Stevens Gulch is listed, right next to Deane’s (Deansbury, Strontia Springs). But here’s the problem – it’s in the exact same place as Mill Gulch! Or is it?
Rand-McNally 1887 map
Rand-McNally 1887 map
Rand-McNally 1881 map
Rand-McNally 1881 map
Frustrated and ready to give up, I decide the next place to look would be The Colorado Railroad Museum. There, I was able to look at the valuation maps, which go through and give the grade, elevation and other interesting details of the railroad, in great detail, including buildings. Mill Gulch is listed.  By pure luck, the Colorado Railroad Museum had also just gotten boxes of photos from the Colorado Water Department, photos that were taken in 1929 by what appears to be executives from the Colorado and Southern railroad, who had bought the Colorado, South Park and Pacific railway in 1908. There was one photo that claimed to be taken near Mill Gulch; sadly, it showed mainly the train, the rail and the high walls of the canyon, and nothing of the gulch itself. The next photo in the series was of the buildings at Strontia Springs.* I didn’t think to write down the mile markers along the route, even though they were on each picture; if I’m remembering correctly, Mill Gulch was at 27.4 miles and Strontia Springs is at 28 miles (measuring from the station in Denver, I would presume- it’s not indicated.)
So, happy with the progress, I came back home and looked at the satellite maps on Google maps and on the USGS site, looking for where the gulches must be. Stevens Gulch is at the head of the reservoir, and possibly has been modified from what it once was. It is where the railroad entered the Platte Canyon. Interestingly enough, Mill Gulch, according to Google maps, is located right there near Stevens Gulch. However, the valuation maps, the photo and mile markers make it clear it was much closer to the western end of the reservoir.
Stevens Gulch courtesy of Google Maps - the pin is Stevens Gulch
Approximate location of Mill Gulch and Strontia Springs - courtesy Google maps
So while Stevens Gulch is still accessible, the far end is blocked by the dam, and Mill Gulch, while not completely gone, is partially full of water.  (Please note that the marking on the maps done by me are approximate; it is not possible to make an accurate marking due to the reservoir.)
I have put small versions of the maps here, due to size limitations. Larger versions of all the maps can be found at http://denverandsouthparkrailroad.blogspot.com/
I certainly hope this helps in your search for these areas; please feel free to ask me about any other areas and I will do what I can to find them.
*Copies of the photos are available from the Colorado Railroad Museum at $8.50 each, and it takes about a week to get them. As I progress with this project, I hope to get some of the more interesting and telling photos from this and other collections in their possession.
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