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Calamity Camp, Colorado Restoration Volunteers

May 26 - June 14


Start: May 26
End: June 14
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Calamity Camp, Colorado
11 9/10 Rd
Gateway, CO 81522 United States
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From the early 1900s until the 1960s, radium, vanadium, and uranium mining boomed on Colorado’s western slope. Calamity Camp survives as a popular tourist stop for historians looking for a “miner detour.”

On the western slope of Colorado you’ll find epic mesas, towering mountain ranges, and among other things, a rich mining history. Calamity Camp outside of Gateway, CO is located on the Uncompahgre Plateau and was established sometime between 1915 and 1925. Featuring five rock cabins, a bunkhouse, cellars, horse corrals, and a rock and cedar post barn, the camp is one of many pieces of mining history laced throughout southwestern Colorado.

Located on historically Ute land, miners extracted uranium, vanadium, and radium from Calamity Mesa from 1916-1980. Uranium is found in several places around Colorado, but 77% of the state’s of uranium and vanadium is found in “numerous and relatively small mines in the Uravan mineral belt located in Mesa, Montrose, and San Miguel Counties” (Colorado Geological Survey). Colorado’s last uranium mine closed in 2005. Today, uranium is used in many industries, especially nuclear power generation. Historically, though, its use was primarily military. During WWI, molybdenum (“Molly B”), which was also mined in Colorado, was critical to the weapons manufacturing (primarily artillery guns and weapons requiring strengthened steel).

When the Central Powers suffered a shortage of molybdenum, they turned to ferrouranium alloys as a substitute. Hence, uranium mining became an important part of the war effort. This use of uranium continued until WWII’s Manhattan Project, and later Cold War, which instead required significant quantities of uranium for fission research and nuclear weaponry (learn more). By the 1980s, however, demand for uranium was down and Calamity Camp became a ghost town.

Uranium mining touches on almost all aspects of society, from warfare, to economics, to health, to social discrimination, to justice. Looking at the impact of uranium extraction through the lenses of public health and environmental justice can offer a critical perspective on this broad topic. As a starter read, check out the 2019 AP article “Mining camp alive in memories of Navajo uranium victims” and go deeper with Brugge and Goble’s 2002 article, “The History of Uranium Mining and the Navajo People,”  And, you can dig into the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to learn how the Department of Justice is handling compensation for victims of the externalities of uranium mining.

In 2007, the BLM, in partnership with the Museum of Western Colorado and the Gateway Canyons Resort, worked to stabilize and protect some of the camp’s buildings and structures. Four years later, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. By preserving Calamity Camp, we ensure future generations can continue to learn from the legacy of uranium mining activities in Colorado. Today, the site is located near splendid Western Slope recreational opportunities, including Jeeping, hiking, mountain biking, and more. HistoriCorps invites you to join us for our return trip to Calamity Camp as we get back to work on two of the remaining stone cabins and dig in for another historic season of preservation work.

SESSION DATES: May 26-31, June 2-7, and June 9-14

Please arrive at the campsite no earlier than 5pm and no later than 7pm on the first day of your session.

LOCATION: Located roughly 50 minutes outside of Gateway, CO.

HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers and applying the traditional skills necessary to restore the buildings of Calamity Camp:

  • Maintain building exteriors
  • Repair roof structures and stabilize walls
  • Stabilize and re-stack fireplaces as necessary


Click here for more information and registration!