Bonanza boomed between 1880and 1888. Silver, copper, lead and zinc were found and 1,500 mining claims came into existence,. Soon 37 building flourished along plank walks lining both sides of Kerber and Copper Creeks. The walks blended into the residential section, which grew up the hills and into the forest.
As the price of silver fell Bonanza lost its importance. By 1890 there were only 100 residents but some of the mines stayed in operation. In 1937 a fire wiped out the town of Bonanza and not many structures were rebuilt.
The remains of the Cocomongo Mill are still visible from Forest Road 862. Ore from the Bonanza Mine and Cocomongo Mine was pulverized, mixed into paste and placed in steam heated containers, Mercury and other compounds were added to the mixture to separate the gold and silver. During the mining and milling, heavy metals would seep into the nearby stream. Recently efforts have been made to restore water quality within the Bonanza Drainage.
Otto Mears participated in the mining boom by constructing at least twelve wagon roads, one of which was the Otto Mears Toll Road. It runs between Shirley and Bonanza. A gate was placed at each end of the road and a fee of 10 cents was paid to travel the road. The road wound its way up through Bonanza, over the hill to Shirley, and on to Poncha pass. A narrow gauge railroad line in Shirley picked up ore.
Wilderness is defined as a portion of land set aside by the 1964 Congressional Wilderness Act that will remain unspoiled for future generations. The Wilderness Act gave the U.S. Forest Service a mandate to manage these special lands so they would be "an enduring resource," one that would remain "unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness."
In contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate that landscape, a wilderness is recognized as an area '…where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain". Wilderness areas are generally over 5,000 acres in size and may contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.
Please view the special regulations associated with Wilderness and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.
Rio Grande National Forest manages four Wilderness areas: