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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Lake City in Hinsdale County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)
 

White Death

 
 
White Death Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 8, 2021
1. White Death Marker
Inscription.  

At 2:14 AM on March 24, 1929, the Big Slide on the north side of Gravel Mountain tore loose and buried the Bonanza Empire Chief main office building, a dining hall/bunk house, and a five-room bunkhouse. Two cooks - Mrs. Mayme Watson and Mrs. E.L. Dunlap and ten men escaped uninjured from the demolished buildings. Survivors and other workers frantically dug through the debris in search of missing friends and coworkers. After several hours, two additional men were found alive. The bodies of four men were recovered under the snow and debris from the main building and bunkhouse.

The hazards of year-round mining in the San Juan Mountains were known to all. Each year avalanches killed a number of miners, packers, mail carriers, and others that ventured into the high country. The Big Slide avalanche that slammed into the Bonanza - Empire Chief was the deadliest avalanche recorded in Hinsdale County.

In 2008, an avalanche destroyed the Bonanza-Empire Chief Mill resulting in the scene before you. This avalanche descended from the north slope behind the mill and sent debris towards Henson Creek. For your safety, please do not
The White Death Marker is the marker on the right of the two markers image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 8, 2021
2. The White Death Marker is the marker on the right of the two markers
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explore the debris pile.

Captions
1. The north-facing, Big Slide avalanche path is visible on the south side of Henson Creek. The Bonanza-Empire Chief mill is on the bottom left of this photo and is 200 yards away from the Big Slide path. The mill was not damaged by the 1929 avalanche.
-Photo courtesy of Dorothy B. Kelley & Hinsdale County Museum - Hinsdale County Historical Society

2. Avalanche at the Bonanza Empire Chief Mill in 2008 - Before and After

3. The southeast corner of the boarding house shows the first story kitchen destroyed by the avalanche. The night watchman was in the kitchen when the avalanche struck. He was thrown outside but otherwise uninjured.
-Photo courtesy of D.P. Shacklett & Hinsdale County Museum - Hinsdale County Historical Society

4. The body of Keith Cutting was recovered below twelve feet of hard packed snow and avalanche debris.
-Photo courtesy of D.P. Shacklett & Hinsdale County Museum - Hinsdale County Historical Society

5. "Bodies packed for the 15-mile sled trip to Lake City, Colorado." The avalanche that hit the Bonanza Empire Chief in 1929 claimed the lives of four men - Keith Cutting, Elmer Johnson, W.L. Wickersham, and L.A. Coler.
-Photo courtesy of D.P. Shacklett & Hinsdale County Museum - Hinsdale County Historical Society

 
Erected by
The ruins of the avalanche destroyed Bonanza - Empire Chief Mill image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 8, 2021
3. The ruins of the avalanche destroyed Bonanza - Empire Chief Mill
U.S. Department of the Interior - Alpine Loop.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: DisastersIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical date for this entry is March 24, 1929.
 
Location. 37° 58.436′ N, 107° 31.348′ W. Marker is near Lake City, Colorado, in Hinsdale County. Marker is on County Highway 20, 4½ miles west of Highway 24, on the right when traveling west. The marker is located along the the 4x4 portion of the Alpine Loop about 13 1/2 miles west of Lake City. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lake City CO 81235, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bonanza Empire Chief (here, next to this marker); Rose Lime Kiln (approx. 1.4 miles away); Tellurium or Was It Whitecross (approx. 2.6 miles away); A Town with Three Names (approx. 2.6 miles away); Ute Homeland (approx. 3.4 miles away); Lee's Legacy (approx. 3.7 miles away); The William Duncan House (approx. 4 miles away); Animas Forks (approx. 4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lake City.
 
Also see . . .  Alpine Loop.
The Alpine Loop is truly a backcountry experience. Make sure someone knows your travel plans and do your homework before you start your trip. Make sure you have plenty of water, food and fuel to make it to your destination. Electronics and wireless devises DO NOT work in most places
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on the Alpine Loop. It is recommended that you download or print hard copy maps prior to your trip. The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway is a rugged 4x4 road that winds through the spectacular scenery of the San Juan Mountains, connecting Lake City, Silverton, and Ouray. The Alpine Loop byway traverses passes up to 12,800 feet while showcasing old mines, ghost towns, natural wonders, beautiful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife. Alpine Loop is an avenue for exploring nature and history amidst thrilling views and stunning geography. Tackling the loop in its entirety is easily an all-day experience event. However, the main loop is only part of the experience; miles of designated side routes allow visitors to either take a short tour or extend their trip to multiple days. For more information, please contact the Gunnison Field Office.
(Submitted on July 24, 2021, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 24, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 24, 2021, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 162 times since then and 98 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 24, 2021, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.

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Dec. 4, 2022