Herrick Sawmill – Florence, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

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Herrick Sawmill

An abandoned sawmill from more than 134 years ago stands testament to the ambition of one man. 


Nathaniel Herrick dreamed of forging a life for his family in the mountains of central Colorado. Though he worked hard to achieve that goal, it slipped from his dying fingers the same year he got started. 

In 1887, coal and silver mining camps littered the landscape of Colorado, and companies running these operations needed timber for various construction efforts. Herrick saw an opportunity to provide for those companies and his family at the same time. He planned to establish a timber harvesting and milling operation along Newlin Creek, under the shadow of a ridge near Stull Mountain. A place to live and work was cleared about four kilometers up the creek bed; all that remained to do, clear and grade a wagon road up to that location.

Hard labor built a path wide enough to transport essential operating equipment to the site more than 500 meters above the valley floor. It also served as a clear and reliable path for the return of manufactured materials from the sawmill back down the mountain.

Equipment moved to the site included a fairly large steam boiler and flywheel, manufactured by the Great Western Foundry of Leavenworth. Cradled by brick and stone walls running the length of the boiler, it would be the backbone of the operation.

Herrick died in the same year he began work on the project, not long after getting all of this in place and beginning operations. He left a wife and children unable to continue his work and the forest reclaimed the land.

A boiler and flywheel remain as testament to his ambition, rusting perched upon a crumbling stone and brick cradle. Scattered around the boiler, other related parts hide in the brush and mountain wildflowers, slowly rusting into the landscape. The fireplace from the cabin also stands just a short distance away, as well as some boards milled all those years ago.

The site is accessible by way of Newlin Creek Trail, a four-kilometer hike that wanders back and forth along the drainage for the creek, in the Wet Mountains portion of the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. The trailhead is just beyond Florence Mountain Park via County Road 15, turning west from Colorado Highway 67.

Know Before You Go

County Road 15 gradually transitions from asphalt to gravel to packed earth.  It is generally well-maintained up to the sign for Florence Mountain Park.  The 1.5 km from that point to the Newlin Creek Trailhead is packed earth and can become quite rutted and is poorly maintained.

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