S. Pass City is open for business

By Marit Gookin

Staff Writer

Saylor, 6, Finley 8, and Sewyer Tate, 11, panned for gold in the creek last year at Gold Rush Days in Historic South Pass City. (Photo by Carl Cote)

In 1861, a young Samuel Clemens – not yet known as Mark Twain – passed through South Pass City and described its “lonely grandeur.” This coming weekend, however, South Pass will be anything but lonely, as the historic site will open its doors to the public for the summer starting on Saturday, May 27. 

“We’ve actually got a series of new exhibitions that will be opening,” explained Superintendent Joe Ellis, including a “survey of historic photography that was done here at South Pass City” between 1870 and the 1950s. While these exhibitions won’t necessarily be up for opening day this weekend, Ellis expects them to be open by mid-June.

Ellis plans for a relatively uncomplicated opening weekend, with the focus kept on simply welcoming people back into the historic site after its winter closure. Starting at the end of next week, though, South Pass City will swing into full summer operation, running its popular Carissa Mine and English Tunnel Tours. Both tours have strict group size limits and require advance registration. “Call a few weeks [in advance] for the English Tunnel Tour, because that fills up fast,” Ellis noted. 

There will also be a variety of treks and hikes offered this summer, including one on Saturday, June 10, that will featured retired Bureau of Land Management’s Craig Bromley, a hike along the Flood and Hindle trail on July 15 and 29, a trek following in the footsteps of the 1870 photography of William Henry Jackson on July 22, and a hike led by local ethnobotanist John Mionczynski on September 9. As always, Gold Rush Days will be held in July; Gold Rush Days usually features panning for gold, live reenactments, a vintage baseball game, mine tours and anvil blasting at the Price Street Bridge, and has also at times in the past concluded with fireworks. 

A new upcoming event this fall will be a history scavenger hunt, which Ellis said is planned to be an activity that will be exciting for families and other groups who want to learn and explore together. The scavenger hunt is scheduled to take place on August 20. 

So, in the words of Mark Twain, climb “on up among the bristling peaks and the ragged clouds” to South Pass City this summer; it sounds like the site will be bustling with exciting activities and displays all season long, kicking off with opening day this Saturday.