Clear Creek County sits on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, 30 miles and 3,000 feet above Denver.The creek (originally known as Vasquez fork) held the flakes of gold which drew miners to the mountains early in 1859. Gold and silver mining would be the early draw to the area followed quickly by tourists interested in the high peaks and cool air of the area around the Continental Divide.
Towns soon developed with Georgetown outgrowing rival Idaho Springs to claim the county seat. The silver mines of Silver Plume created a booming miner's community while Empire balanced gold mining with its growing role as gateway to Berthoud Pass and the Middle Park area of central Colorado. By the mid-1880s the county's population topped 7,800, only to drop to 2,100 by the 1930s as the economics of hard metal mining quieted the hammers and drills.
The county's resurgence came as tourists continued to travel to the mountains, fueled by the growth of state and later federal highway systems. While the railroad left the county during the hard years of the Depression, automobile travel picked up and kept the county alive. The growth of the skiing industry after World War II added a new and valued industry as Berthoud Pass and Loveland Ski Area began to draw skiers as well as travelers that would drive through the county on the way to areas in Summit and Grand counties. The production of steel during World War II also spurred development of the county's large molybdenum reserves.
By the 1950s people began to realize the value of the historic structures throughout the county. The older residential and commercial structures soon took on a new value, creating another industry: cultural tourism.
The love of history and historic preservation has continued to the present day.Several groups now act as stewards for the old buildings and mining heritage: Historic Idaho Springs, Mill Creek Valley Historical Society, Historic Georgetown, Inc., People for Silver Plume, Inc. and the people of the town of Empire.