c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins
This article is an excerpt from Collins’ book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.
Local legend records Bison as a logging camp dating to the 1860s and located between Cow Mountain and Pikes Peak near today’s Cripple Creek District. The east fork of West Beaver Creek feeds today’s Bison Reservoir, which, in turn, drains into Bison Creek running south. In 1874, Quincy King, who had just recently discovered the eventual nearby resort of Seven Lakes, partnered with two other men to form the “Smith, King and Unrue” mining claim in Bison Valley on the east fork of Beaver Creek.
The few mine diggings aside, Bison Park remained a pristine and most scenic area. Here, a road wound through lush trees to a quiet, wooded valley which opened into wide green meadows. Amazingly beautiful rock formations towered around the valley. Cabin ruins in the woods today attest to times when people worked or lived in the area. The remaining treasures also include a small Victorian home, built as a caretaker’s house in 1893. The spacious floor plan allowed for two bedrooms, a parlor, a dining area and a kitchen.
As the Cripple Creek District gold mining boom got under way, real estate men flocked in droves to settle small towns throughout the area. On July 2, 1895, a plat map for the “Bison Park Town Site” was surveyed by R.W. Bradshaw and filed in El Paso County. The map reads more like an advertisement, with the following description:
“Bison Park is a romantic and picturesque place. It is in the main mineral belt south of the Peak and is already surrounded with good mines. It is also on the established route of the [Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District] Railroad. Hence it is destined to become a town of considerable importance. Moral: Buy lots while they are cheap.”
Alas, the railroad declined to pass by Bison Park’s remote location, and the plat map shows that the town was vacated in September, 1895. The scenic valley was not lost, however, on the nearby City of Victor. In July 1901, the city proposed purchasing 213 acres of the park from the owner, a woman named Mary Miller, for $10,000. The plan was to build a reservoir as a water supply for local residents. The Altman Water Company, which already sold water to Victor, raised a slight ruckus at the idea. In the end, however, the city successfully completed the purchase. Bison Reservoir was constructed in about 1901. Several mining claims—namely, the Park Placer, Park Placer No. 2, Old No. 9 and a small portion of the Maggie A—were covered with water. As for Bison Park, the area remained as gorgeous and pristine as it ever was.
In more modern times, Bison continues to serve as Victor’s water supply but is also home to the Gold Camp Fishing Club. Membership to the club is extended to only Victor property owners, who take much pride in maintaining the area’s natural setting and historic sites. Much of the park is surrounded by BLM land. Numerous members actively volunteer their time, money and labor to Bison Reservoir. The grounds are frequently the scene of weddings, memorials, fishing tournaments and a host of other activities. In essence, visitors to Bison respect the land and its surroundings so that future generations can enjoy this natural playground for many years to come.
Please be respectful of this historic area by refraining from trespassing beyond the locked gates at the entrance.
Image of Bison Reservoir c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins.