Historical Photos
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Below are several historical photos of the Lluvia de Oro mine location, the El Chorro mill & water pumping plant, and a curious amphibious boat that briefly saw service on the Rio Fuerte. The photos are from the Kroch collection at the Cornell University Library and were supplied to us courtesy of Denis E. Clark1. They are used with permission. Full-scale enlargements are available by clicking on the thumbnails displayed below. These photos establish an early date before which modern equipment and methods were not used. Today there are numerous small relics of the mine's heyday lying about rusting. On a future visit, we hope to photograph the same locations from the same angles for comparison.

A significant part of Lluvia's modern history is tied to an American engineer, Lucien L. Nunn (1853- 1925). In some fascinating history, the electrical power plant for the mining activity was designed and constructed by Nunn. Starting life as a mine manager, Nunn had struggled with the need for economical power to support mining operations. Water power for hydraulic mining was difficult to manage in the Colorado mountains given the elevations and harsh winters. Electricity was a possibility but was not understood. The use of electricity in mining was new in the late 1800s and experience had to be gained empirically.  Nunn had gained experience starting in Telluride, Colorado and became a pioneer in this field. At the behest of a director of the Telluride Power Company who had a stake in the Lluvia de Oro operation, Nunn went to Mexico over 1906 - 1908 to construct a power plant to supply electricity for the mine. The photos below, mostly taken in later 1907, offer a glimpse of this activity.

Looking approximately north, we see the foundations of the future milling operation. The lowermost flat area is close to where the remains of several large steel tanks are seen today and would have been the last step in the extraction process. Initially, milling was intended to be done at the El Chorro location alongside the Rio Fuerte. Later it was moved to the mine site. The mine entrance is to the right of this photo about a fifteen minute walk away.
This view is northeasterly and shows the top of the stepped milling operation on the right. Note the general lack of trees on the hillside and the large stack of wood in the center of the photo. Also note the numerous pack animals visible left of center.
Located some 1120 meters below and six to seven kilometers away from the mine, the El Chorro plant was initially intended to mill the mine's ore. Note the large tanks visible just to the right of the roofed area. Later, a dam was constructed across the Rio Fuerte four kilometers downstream and fitted with a hydroelectric generator sending electricity to the mine and possibly here. At the time of this photo, this operation was evidently steam-powered from a wood-fired boiler. Remains of the boiler are still visible today. Note the huge woodpile required to keep the boiler going.
A strange tale - getting supplies to the mine site from the coast proved troublesome due to large seasonal fluctuations in the Rio Fuerte's water level. A custom-designed amphibious boat (name and manufacturer unknown) was constructed in Cleveland, Ohio and delivered to San Blas, Mexico in later 1908. Made of steel, the craft weighed six tons and proved difficult to handle in higher water thus limiting its usefulness. Today seasonal changes in river level are still significant and can be abrupt.
Seen here on land, the wheels used for propulsion on land and water are clearly visible. Whatever additional means of support were used on land is not presently known. From the coast, the trip upriver to the mine's access spot at El Chorro was estimated to require ten days.
At the helm - wheelman & location unknown. Note the riveted construction.
L.L. Nunn constructed the power plant for the Lluvia de Oro mine as well as numerous other plants around the United States. He worked with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse in 1891 to build the world's first commercial AC generating plant at Ames, near Telluride, Colorado. The plant showed it was possible to generate and transmit electrical power to a mine a few miles away.

Some Additional Reading:

1. Telluride Power - A Brief Illustrated History of the Early Days
Telluride Association History Committee, 2001
Telluride, Colorado
Denis E. Clark (compiler)

2. LL Nunn in the Western Colorado Power Company Collection
Collection M 002
Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado

3. Guide to the Lucien L. Nunn Papers
Collection #37-4-1770
Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections
Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York


4. Deep Springs College - The Founder
Deep Springs, California

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