One highlight on this year’s family camping trip was the town where Amelia Earhart was having a cabin built when she disappeared on her famous around the world flight over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937. The cabin was about three logs high when she disappeared, so they never finished it. She was having it built about a half mile west of the now ghost mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming, up a draw in some pretty tall mountains (over 10,000 feet).
She had stayed for a month in a cabin at the Double D dude ranch, then owned by Carl Dunrud. Amelia and her husband, George P. Putnam, had become friends with the Dunruds. Jim Dunrud, Carl’s son I believe, still participates in the annual celebration of the no longer operating Double D Ranch and Earhart each fall. This year’s celebration was going to take place the day after we had to leave the area. We were told Amelia was going to be there, in the cabin she stayed in, to visit with people!
It is a beautiful valley where gold was discovered in 1885 by William Kirwin and a partner while out deer hunting. Silver and copper were also discovered there. The town is named Kirwin and once had about 200 families living there.
Kirwin is 33 miles from Meeteetse and 9,500 feet in elevation. A stagecoach carried passengers during this town’s prime from Kirwin to Meeteetse over some exceedingly steep hills until they reached the valley the last half of the route. We have ridden part of this trail on our four wheeler, and they must have had some muscular horses to pull that stage coach. The coach went to Meeteetse one day, and returned the next day. About a 45 minute ride now due to the last nine miles being a four wheel trail crossing the Wood River about five or six times, it would have taken all day by stage coach. Hardy people.
In 1907 the town received over 50 feet of snow in eight days according to the historical site: http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/bighorn3.html. On February 5th, a huge avalanche slid down these vertical, crumbly mountains, killing three people in the general store. Apparently deciding enough is enough, the people abandoned the town in the spring.
The ranger told us they left everything behind, (probably didn’t fit on the stage coach!), and now sight seers have carried everything off except a few items they have locked up in a shed. He even told of someone trying to sell an old stove to a museum who determined it was one of the stoves from this town and they couldn’t buy it as it was now considered stolen!
There is now “millions of dollars’ worth of copper” in that mountain (on the south side of the valley where what is left of the town sits) a ranger told us on this trip, but the whole place is now owned by the Forest Service and will never be mined. We found small pieces of copper ore, (turning green with corroding) lying near one of the partially restored mine shafts.
The area is absolutely beautiful and my son-in-law and buddies have climbed those high, jagged peaks hunting for sheep and elk. The guys usually see some grizzlies in the fall, who are turning over rocks and getting fat on moths they find. I bet I could get fat on those little critters too, since I seem to double and store every calorie I take in.
Old cabins, outhouses, horse sheds and huge pieces of mining equipment dot the town. Deer and other critters now frequent the shelters that humans fled. Many visitors find their way back to this fascinating town each summer.
We feel the draw that Amelia must have felt for this beautiful area. Stabilization and restoration began in 1999 by various entities.