Meet Colorado Bob Ross

Colorado Bob Ross

‘Colorado Bob’ Ross, genuine prospector and part owner of the Bessie G Mine (located in La Plata County, Colorado) is offering up some mighty fine field trips for those of you hankering to do some rock hunting or prospecting. You may have seen Colorado Bob on the hit show ‘Prospectors’ on the Weather Channel. Well, Bob’s been doing this rock gig for a mighty long time—just ask locals in the greater Four Corners area, including the Geological staff at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Co. Bob Ross is their go-to-guy for answers about any kind of rock, gem or mineral they stumble upon or want to know more about. But that’s exactly what Bob loves doing—educating people about rocks, how they tell the story of our evolution through space and time, and especially preserving these irreplaceable time capsules from the past.

After returning home to Colorado from a lengthy military duty, Bob went to work in a local coal mine. Inside the dark caverns lined with soot and pitch black rock, Bob found a calm and comfort he’d not experienced in his demanding, high stress position in a special ops branch of the military. The twelve plus hour shifts, six days a week, mining for coal led Bob to inadvertently unearth his true passion in life and develop his natural knack for teaching. Within the massive walls of earth and rock being mined for coal, layers of dinosaur fossils, bones, crystals, precious gems and minerals were being dug up—all of which was considered waste to the coal mining executives—but not to Bob. He saw the Earth’s delicate history quickly being destroyed by modern technology and vowed to help save the relics of the past so others could reap the knowledge buried within the Earth.

Somehow, Bob managed to work his grueling shifts with barely an hour break per day and haul out fragments of bone, rocks and minerals that had been damaged by the mining equipment to study in depth as time permitted. His curiosity grew and grew; ultimately drawing him deeper into the belly of knowledge about geology. Bob’s tireless searching led him to find a carnival of characters disguised as old ranchers, cowboys, Indigenous elders, shop owners, waitresses, grandmothers, grandfathers and other colorful, random people in rural places throughout the world who stepped up to assist him on his journey. Not only did these helpful, wise, out-of-nowhere teachers show him where to look, they also taught him, firsthand, how to do it. Folks, you just can’t get that kind of experience in a book.

Bob supported himself and his family with other creative pursuits in and around the greater Durango area, all the while collecting rocks. Locals remember the years he owned and operated the first horse and carriage livery in downtown Durango, Colorado.

Bob Ross offered carriage rides in Durango in the 1980's

Bob Ross owned and operated the Durango Carriage Company in the 1980’s.

Bob was just as entertaining, and knowledgeable, back in those days as he is now about the area and her unique history. He owned and operated several other local businesses, including Durango’s first recycling service. Bob finally realized his longtime dream, and ventured out fulltime into the delightful business of rocks. Little did Colorado Bob know that his career move after returning home from the Middle East would one day lead him to educating universities, geological teams, and lay people all over the world, but that’s exactly what happened.

So with true southwestern hospitality, we invite you to check out one of our tour offerings and have a chance to spend time with Bob, one-on-one, on one of his tours. As Colorado Bob gently reminds folks on his tours, “Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. It’s up to us to be the caretakers of what is left while we still can. Every rock is a snowflake. There’s only one like it in the entire world. So, if you pick a rock up to take home, you are responsible for its care as the irreplaceable treasure it is.” Whether it’s prospecting in the heart of the Rockies or combing the beautiful lands in the high desert looking for a nugget from the past, Colorado Bob will help you learn the Earth – one rock at a time.

Photo illustration showing Bob in front of the original entrance to the Bessie G mine.

Photo illustration showing Bob in front of the original entrance to the Bessie G mine.

The Bessie G Mine
La Plata Canyon
La Plata County, Colorado

One of the best know mines in the district starts on the east slope of the divide between Columbus Basin and Heffernan Gulch. The mine travels through the mountain and emerges in Columbus Basin. The workings are at an altitude of 11,750 feet. The mine was known as the Egyptian Queen when first opened, about 1880. The mine was renamed the Bessie G when it was patented in 1891. The country rocks in the vicinity of the mine are solidified redbeds of the Dolores formation, cut by a complex mass of irregular dikes and slits of diorite and polphyry. The vein matter consists of sugary-white and pale-green quartz in which tetrahedrite, chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite, and pyrite are locally abundant. Tellurides and free gold are visible to the unaided eye an many specimens; a few specimens contain cinnabar.

Bob Ross inside the Bessie G Mine

Colorado Bob Ross inside the Bessie G Mine.

Bob and Sparky prospecting on the mountainside near the Bessie G mine.

Bob and Sparky prospecting on the mountainside near the Bessie G mine.