One of my favorite places to photograph is the historic Crystal Mill near Marble, Colorado. The charming mill is perched up on a rock ledge next to a small waterfall pouring in to the emerald green colored Crystal River. It is just waiting for photographers to discover her!
Historically, this relic has numerous monikers. Once called the Sheep Mountain Mill, Old Mill, and the Lost Horse Mill, this powerhouse would run all the drills in nearby silver mining operations.
The Crystal Mill is located near Aspen in the little town of Marble, Colorado. The summer and fall months are the best to visit as it is only accessible by 4-wheeling, hiking, mountain biking, or horse riding.
Originally built in 1892 to support the Sheep Mountain Tunnel project, this mill was still in use to 1917. It was eventually placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Crystal Mill is actually an abandoned hydraulic power plant that used a water turbine to drive an air compressor and power for the mining projects..
Why all the fuss? Well, the Crystal Mill is set just outside the town of Marble, Colorado and next to the Crystal River. Marble quarried here was used at the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The stone block for the tomb at that time in history was the largest ever quarried in the world.
This whole area was known as the center of mining in southwestern Colorado, and was reputed to be home to the largest marble mine in the world! Photographing this national history set in this natural landscape is a real treat.I recommend you spend a couple of hours at the Crystal Mill as there are so many different compositions to explore. Also, spend a little extra time just to sit a relax near the mill. The setting and remoteness lend itself to a fantastic experience.
If you have extra time, consider continuing past the mill and exploring the ghost town of Crystal. You can try running around the Lead King Loop for some more great photo opportunities.
The rules at the mill of where you can explore are changing a bit year after year. Make sure you abide by these rules so it protects access for other photographers to come and enjoy in future years!
I really like to arrive around 2pm to figure out my shots, and explore a bit. As the light gets a bit lower, then it is time to shoot. Normally around 5pm the sun is starting to go behind the mountains, giving us some really good light. A partly cloudy day or light diffused clouds is perfect!
To get to the Crystal Mill, you need to pass through the small town of Marble, Colorado and go past Beaver Lake. As you pass the lake you will start climbing on County Road 3. As the road climbs, you will come to a hard right on FSR 413. The road will get rougher and narrower as it continues. You will then pass Lizard lake, and in a couple of miles arrive at the historic Crystal Mill.
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