Yankee Boy Basin Road #853 is an extension of the Canyon Creek Road past the Camp Bird Mine. Spectacular mountain scenery, alpine flowers, water falls and many active and abandoned mines may be seen along the route.
The condition of the road is good. Traffic by ore trucks and recreational vehicles is very heavy. All vehicles must stay on developed roads.
For "flat landers" visiting the Ouray area, the Yankee Boy Basin Road offers a superb combination of scenery, mining history, and relatively easy four wheel driving.
Where the Camp Bird Mine entrance road turns to the left, keep right to continue up into Yankee Boy Basin. From the intersection, the road makes a sharp right turn in 1/4 mile. At this point the road was constructed on a ledge and widened by blasting. A cliff overhangs the road for a few hundred feet. Vehicles may only pass in one direction at a time through this section. Check the road ahead before starting.
A good road continues for over two miles past the old Sneffels town site. where the road forks, turn right to follow into Yankee Boy Basin. The road to the left leads to Governor Basin. From this point, the road gets rockier and much rougher. A Forest Service toilet is located just east of the intersection.
In about 1 1/4 miles the road climbs to an open basin. Beyond the basin the road continues about 3/4 mile to Gilpin Lake. The last section of road is not located on rock like the lower portion. If the ground is wet, steep grades will prevent you from driving this section without damage to the road and alpine soils.
Throughout the trip are superb views of rugged mountain scenery and unusual rock formations, characteristic of the San Juan Mountains. Potosi Peak and Teakettle Mountain may be seen north of the road. On the south side are United States Mountain, Gilpin Peak and Stony Mountain. Although Mount Sneffels lies just northwest of Gilpin Lake, the top of that peak cannot be seen.
July and early August are favorite times for many to view alpine flowers, which brighten the hillsides and open meadows. Entire fields of Bleu Colorado Columbines, Red Indian Paintbrush and Yellow Buttercups are common.
The road and mines up Canyon Creek past Camp Bird into the Sneffels mining District exemplifies the ingenuity, desires, and abilities of early day miners to extract minerals under extremes of nature's conditions.
Camp Bird Mine was one of the largest and most productive gold mines in Colorado. An estimated $30 to $50 million has been removed since its beginnings in the mid-1890's. Supplies and ore were hauled over the narrow, steep winding Canyon Creek Road by six horse teams. A boarding house with two men per room and a recreation building were built. Accommodations were considered good at Camp Bird compared with other mining camps. The first mine and mill site buildings were destroyed by avalanches. The current mine is located to avoid snow slides.
Just beyond the junction to Imogene Pass is the town site of Sneffels and the Revenue Mine. A mill, boarding house, store, post office, power house, and other buildings once stood at this location. For over twenty years the Revenue Mine was the largest shipper of ore from the county. Sneffels began in 1881 and lasted until 1919. A total of $27 million in gold was mined from this site.
At the Governor Basin junction is the Ruby Trust Mine, 100 yards from the intersection. Originally, the mine was named the Speedwell. The name was changed to the Ruby Trust, because of beautiful ruby silver produced from the mine.
Today, the Camp Bird and Ruby Trust mines continues to operate. Be watchful for heavily loaded ore trucks using the Yankee Boy Road.
Jeep tours and jeep rentals are available in Ouray. Yankee Boy receives particularly heavy traffic throughout the summer. Allow plenty of time for slow driving and plenty of picture taking.
Directions from Ouray: Take Hwy 550 south 1/4 mile to Canyon Creek Road. Turn right and continue to Camp Bird Mine. Keep right on the main road. 4WD travel is recommended after the intersection.