Preserving the Magic of Crystal Mill

Colorado’s most photographed site runs the risk of being torn down

Article by Livia Hooson

Photography by Provided by Crystal Mill

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

For many Coloradans and visitors to the area, Crystal Mill is an iconic stopover attracting thousands annually. Located in the now ghost town of Crystal City above Marble, just a stone’s throw from the resort town of Aspen, sits the towering wooden powerhouse (oddly enough, not a mill) that was built in 1892. It’s truly a sight to behold, where the roaring Crystal River pours from the side of its foundation, making it the most photographed site in the state. The destination invites hikers into an oasis off the beaten path that shows a time in history when silver mining dominated the region and hardworking families called this beautiful corner of the West home. 

Built in the 1880s, the turbine waterwheel was built as a more efficient alternative to other mills and was in operation until its closure in 1917. It has served as a memorable travel destination for over a century, where families, friends and travelers have shared memories in the shadow of this striking landmark. Recently, the family who owns the powerhouse has announced they will soon list the property for sale, putting Crystal Mill at risk of getting torn down. To protect and preserve the powerhouse for generations to come, a nonprofit has been put into place. 

Heather Leigh, president of the Crystal Mill Foundation, has set a goal of $10 million that would go towards buying the land and implementing on-site facilities (including a source of drinking water) for hikers and visitors. The money will also be allocated to preserve the natural land and massive rock formation that the powerhouse was built upon. Leigh reminds people that time is of the essence as the sale of the property could happen shortly if donation goals are not reached. The foundation is aiming to reach its full goal by June of 2021 in order to begin its plans of preservation. 

As we begin a new year and set in place new plans for the future, we must also look to the past to recognize where we have come from. Crystal Mill stands as a reminder to do just this, as one of Colorado’s most beloved treasures fights to be seen for centuries to come. 

Preserving a Colorado Landmark 

To send financial donations to the Crystal Mill Foundation: 

Email a check to: Crystal Mill Foundation PO Box 27434, Lakewood CO 80227 

Make a safe and secure donation through PayPal on the foundation’s website:

Email Heather Leigh with any questions: 

Share this story and information to further the community's awareness! 

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