Set high in the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park, Lulu City was once a bustling mining town at the turn of the 19th century. For the five years spanning from 1879 to 1884, Lulu City supported a population of several hundred, though nearly all evidence of the little village has all but vanished. What remains is a beautiful and secluded meadowland at the headwaters of the Colorado River, its waters full of trout and grasslands that are perfect for backcountry camping at the doorstep of the Michigan Lakes and La Poudre Pass.
In the summer of 1879, William Baker scouted the Kawuneeche Valley for mining prospects and settled at the future site of Lulu City. In November of 1879, he built log cabins and a general store—the basics necessary for a booming population, and in time people began to settle in the area. Not much documentation from the time persists today, but we do have dispatches from correspondents or reporters who visited the area. By the early 1880s, Lulu City supported a population of 500 and something of a local culture flourished in the holiday celebrations, dances, quilting bees and hunting and fishing expeditions. There was a tone of optimism about the town as the Howard Mining Company continued prospecting the hills for valuable ore deposits that enriched the Rockies throughout Colorado.
The silver discovered there was of low grade, and the remote location of Lulu City—taking seven to eight days to reach by poorly maintained routes from Fort Collins—made mining operations there impractical. By 1886, the post office had closed and most of Lulu City’s residents had moved on to better opportunities. In his autobiography, William Allen White described Lulu City in 1889: “We saw, forty miles from our camp, a deserted mining town—a marvelous picture like Pompeii. Overnight, it seems, the thousand inhabitants had pulled out. There was the post office, with the letters in the boxes; the saloons with the empty bottles on the shelves; the billiard tables with their green baize, moth-eaten and rat-gnawed; the stores with their shelves like grinning skulls empty of their fleshy furnishings; in the cabins the cookstoves stood in the kitchens, and iron safes standing open, too heavy to be moved."
Today, Lulu City has been reclaimed almost entirely by the grassy meadows of the Kawuneeche. The only evidence is the rotting foundation of an old log cabin, depressions in the grass where buildings once stood, and a rusting bear trap. For today’s visitors, Lulu City is an opportunity to ponder the transience of our presence on the land with a sandwich in hand and a blanket to relax on. Cast a line into the Colorado or pitch your tent and wonder over what must've been, if only for the blink of an eye in time.