Oil Creek Tunnel
Pikes Peak, Colorado
Part 2: In the Tunnel

The entrance to the Oil Creek Tunnel inside of Pikes Peak
You can read the sign in Part 1: To the Tunnel


If you got to this page without seeing Part 1: To the Tunnel please go there now!

Just because I have been in the Oil Creek tunnel,
and have put up a story and photos about it,
that does NOT mean that I am saying it is OK to
go into the tunnel! Read the sign posted outside
of the tunnel
and make up your own mind!

In Search of the Answer

Looking back from 50' inside of the Oil Creek Tunnel.

First things first. If you look closely at the photo above and the one to the right you can see that there is water coming out of the tunnel. In fact, it is the North fork of French Creek and it helps supply the city of Manitou Springs with drinking water. If you got here from Elk Park then you crossed the creek once about 1/4 mile back down the trail. If you came from Barr Camp then you crossed the creek twice. The fact that the creek is coming out of the Oil Creek tunnel should give you a clue as to what we are going to find at the end of this tunnel. But we have a long way to go...

Looking back from 100' inside of the Oil Creek Tunnel.
You can see Larry's measuring tape on the ground

If you look back from about 100' into the tunnel you might be amazed that you can still see the entrance! Just wait, because you haven’t seen anything yet. Oh, in case you were wondering these are real distances. You can even see the tape measure on the ground in the photo to the right. This was our mission after all!

After 450' there is finally something to look at — whatever it is.

Not until about 450' do you come upon something a little more interesting to look at. But only a little.

Looking back from 500' inside of the Oil Creek Tunnel.

At 500' you can STILL see the tunnel entrance! As Larry was running the tape off for the next 100' it started to hit me what an engineering marvel this is. Think of it this way: the water is not pooling but flowing at a nice little trickle all the way to the end. Therefore the tunnel must be running ever so slightly downhill towards the entrance.

Timber going up the wall and over your head after 600'.

As you pass by 600' you can see some timbers going up the wall and over your head. I may be wrong but these do not look like they are there to hold up the tunnel at this point but rather they look like they are there to divert dirt and rocks to the side of the tunnel. In fact you can see a collection of dirt on the bottom of this one.

At 700' you come upon a blast shield.

At 700' you come upon a blast shield. The miners would get behind this to protect themselves from the rocks they were blowing apart with dynamite. Makes you think we are nearing the end and the articles in part one about the tunnel being 800' are correct, doesn’t it? At least you know it goes a little farther however because you can see Larry’s tape heading off to the left.

1000' and counting - and you can still see the entrance!!!

At 1000' two of the three stories on the first page have been proven incorrect. What’s more is that you can STILL see the entrance! Think about what I wrote at 500' as far as the water flow and double that! A truly amazing tunnel!

A little hole in the side at 1,166'

1,166' into the tunnel on the left is a little side hole about 7' deep. Perhaps a test? A place to store stuff? Don't ask me!

Yes, you can still see the entrance at 1,200'

At 1,200' feet I had to get down low and to the right (looking out) but we could still see the entrance! That small white spot is it — simply amazing! Soon after this an ever so slight turn (one of several) and we could see it no longer. Another interesting point is that along here the water was no longer on the surface and it got rather quiet.

Things get a little dicey at 1,324'

Remember what the sign said about “abandoned mine hazards?” Well at 1,324' we ran into one of them. A partially collapsed section and I have the feeling these timbers were meant to hold up the roof! We had to walk up and over the rubble to keep going.

OK, this area can be a little disconcerting

Now I am up in the collapse taking a shot back towards the entrance. The round boulder in the center is the same one you can see in the photo above. The collapse has formed a rather large room and the top is now about 30' high I would guess. High enough that my flash could not light it up enough for a good picture! However the whole area looks about the same as I had remembered it and that was comforting in that in the last 10 years the collapse has not expanded!

Just past the collapse at 1,338' there is a side tunnel off to the left.

Now things get REALLY interesting! At, 1,338' or just 14' after the collapse is a side tunnel. The entrance to it is enough to scare anyone to death and since we had just come through the collapse we skipped it for now with the plan being to explore it on the way back out. At this point I did notice something different about this area from the first time that I came through. Back then the collapse had caused the water to form a large pool of water. I guess over the years the water has found a way through because it is gone now.

100' past the side tunnel at 1,438' there is neat old barrel.
There is a lot of this piping lying around.

1,438' and still going. A really neat old barrel is the coolest non-living thing left in the tunnel. Or at least I think so. I can only guess that the piping was either to bring in air or take out water but who knows? There is quite a bit of it at this point in the tunnel.

If it is metal it is now rusted to a nice color of brown

Another view of some of the other trash, I mean artifacts, that still remain in the tunnel.

The Answer

On top of the brown stain is the final hole drilled into
the Oil Creek Tunnel. At least in this direction
At the end of the tunnel! And the answer to that for which we came? 1,593' — three tenths of a mile through solid granite all to find... WATER! Larry and I both felt that there was a heck of a lot more water coming out of this tunnel than this whole was supplying. Indeed, there are lots of places in the tunnel where water seems to seep in but none to this extent. However, we suspect that when they drilled this hole they knew the game was over!

OK, here is the proof that Larry was there one Fall day in 2002.

Larry at the end. This photo also gives some perspective as to the overall size of this area of the tunnel. Most of it was just a little shorter than this. In fact Larry bumped his head twice on the way out:-)

OK, here is the proof that I was there one Fall day in 2002.

Like they say... You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink...

Now this gives new meaning to the term watering hole!

...but I am told that it tastes great! In fact considering that it has been flowing for over 100 years that is not a very big stain! When we were there, despite three good days of rain, the flow was like what you would have if you were to dump out a gallon of milk. Those that visited last week said it was coming out about 5 feet. I have heard reports of it shooting out 15 to 20 feet.

The Side Tunnel

This is in the ceiling outside the entrance to the side tunnel.
Not exactly up to code I should say!
Just some of the fun to be had at the entrance to the side tunnel. Again this is at 1,338' into the main tunnel. I think this side tunnel is further proof that this was just a prospecting venture because if you were going to be taking ore carts through a tunnel I can't see how you would take them through a 90 degree turn. Even more interesting to me is that none of the 1937 stories even mention this side tunnel. Also I am guessing that they chose this spot precisely because it was next to the collapse in that they felt they had found a vein or something? But this is just a wild guess!

Note the dirt that has fallen down around the timbers.

A few feet into the side tunnel and things are not looking a whole lot better. I remember Larry saying, “I don’t like the looks of this!”

There goes that measuring tape again.

Fortunately just a few feet later things are back to “normal.” That is... nice solid granite walls and ceilings:-) If you look closely you can just make out Larry’s hat, shoes, and legs off in the distance. Just follow his measuring tape.

This one is in a little better shape than the one in the main tunnel.

At 317' into the side tunnel we came upon another blast shield. Although there was no water in the side tunnel it was very humid. In fact if you look closely on the right side of the photo that is fog from our breathing hovering in the air.

Looks like they just had enough...

Nothing very exciting at the end of the side tunnel. However at 458' it is still a heck of a journey! In all the two tunnels are 2,051' long or .39 of a mile. All for apparently nothing. But then again the town of Manitou Springs now has another source of drinking water!

Life in the Tunnel

Now we wonder just how many we did not see or hear!
As we were leaving the side tunnel I stopped to get a picture of the timbers near its entrance (see 4 photos up) from the other side. Larry was talking when we heard a high pitched "screechhh!" Not two inches from Larry’s head was a bat! This was the only living thing we found in the tunnel — at least that we saw!

I was really glad the flash did not bother it!

I wish I knew more about bats so I would not have been so scared. I guess I have seen one too many horror movies! This bat has been identified by several bat experts as a western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum).

Gee, they really do sleep upside-down!

So long from... the Bat Cave!
Sorry, I couldn’t resist...

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