In the 1880s and 1890s, the Red Mountain mining district was a booming 19th-century industrial juggernaut in the pristine San Juan Mountains. Silver was the basis of the currency, and much wealth was created in the area. Towns sprang up overnight, and the mountain sides were soon stripped of trees. Ranchers settled in the nearby valleys to raise cattle to feed the hungry miners, and railroads (like the Durango Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad) were built through rugged mountain passes to carry ore to be processed.
One of the richest discoveries in the area was made in 1882 by a prospector named John Robinson, and that claim was developed into the Yankee Girl Mine. One of only three vertical-shaft mines in the area, the Yankee Girl ore was so rich that it was shipped directly to the smelter, bypassing preliminary processing. The ore was valued at $10,000 per ton, and over $100 million (in today's terms) was extracted before the mine was shut down in 1898 after the country went to the gold standard and silver prices plummeted.
Today the mine is easily reached over a 1-mile rough road, and it is a very picturesque relic of Colorado's history. The mine is only a few miles from Red Pass, the highest (and most-daunting) of the three passes on the "Million Dollar Highway," which is part of the San Juan Skyway scenic drive. Across the highway from the Yankee Girl is a wonderfully informative overlook with many informative displays and great views of the surrounding Red Mountains and the ongoing Newmont Mining Corporation reclamation efforts.