SNOWSTORM DREDGE INTRODUCTION
The historic Snowstorm Dredge is located on private property on the north side of Colorado State Highway 9, between the towns of Alma and Fairplay. Built in San Francisco from 1930 through 1941, it remains the last intact dragline dredge in Colorado.
The structure was built specifically for the Timberline Dredging Company and was constructed by the Bodison Manufacturing Company in San Francisco. Installed at the Snowstorm Placer in 1941, it was fed by a dragline crane as opposed to a bucket line. It is therefore known as a floating gold washing machine. The boat weighs 483 tons and is approximately 50 feet wide and 86 feet long. The placer itself was located by James W. Gibson in 1870, making it an historic mining site in Park County.
The dredge was closed in September of 1942 due to WWII but resumed operations in May of 1946 for that month only. During 1947 and 1948, it was again in operation; it was actively worked for a total of 16 months.
In 1975 to 1976, the dredge was leased again and after being renewed, was operated as a stationery plant. It has since remained idle due to the cost of gold recovery although it is now owned by a gravel operation.
In 1999 Jackie Powell, historic planner, and Gary Higgins, historic architect, asked me if I would be interested in researching the history of the Snowstorm Dredge. The research was used in their Historic Structure Assessment. In 2001 Colorado Preservation Inc. designated the dredge as one of the Endangered Places.
The research involved using the Fairplay Flume and Alma Bulletin newspapers and making many trips to the libraries at Colorado School of Mines, USGS in the Federal Center in Lakewood, Denver and Colorado Historical Society. A descendant of the Ballenger family, former owner of the Timberline Dredging Company, was located and he provided several photos.
The Snowstorm Dredge and Placer represent an important part of the mining history in Park County, Colorado.
Jane Gilsinger, September 2013