It was only open for a few years; yet the Park City Silver Mine Adventure, where visitors were lowered into the old Ontario silver mine to get an “authentic” mine experience, left a lasting impression – especially on the children lucky enough to become miners for an hour or two.
Now grown up, those kids come into the Museum asking if this was the place they got to go down in a mine (we aren’t). We get calls too, asking about tours of the mine. ‘Unfortunately,’ we reply, ‘the Silver Mine Adventure has been closed for a long time now.’ In fact, the Park City Silver Mine Adventure was only open between December of 1995 and probably 1998.
Interestingly, when the attraction closed, there was no report or article written. Not from the Park Record, nor any of the Salt Lake area papers. Ask one person who was in Park City at that time; they will say it closed in 1998. Ask another; they will say 1999.
The last article I could find about the Silver Mine Adventure being open was from October 13, 1998: a review from the Daily Universe (BYU’s student paper) about the Halloween programming at the mine. Perhaps no closing article was written because it was expected that the attraction would reopen at some point. The Park City Silver Mine Adventure Inc. last filed as a domestic for-profit corporation in 2003.
All of this is surprising, not only because someone should have noticed and thought to write a story about it, but because the attraction was popular.
But there was a time when the Silver Mine Adventure faced some backlash. In 1997, the attraction decided to unveil their aforementioned Halloween programming, which they billed as the “Tunnel of Terror.” The description of the Tunnel of Terror included that “various dead and decaying miners and their ravenous rat friends will greet our guests.”
Some locals and mining veterans were not very happy. The Ontario, where the Silver Mine Adventure resided, is part of the worst mining disaster in Park City’s history. An explosion at the adjoining Daly West Mine led to a gas leak that killed nine men in the Ontario shaft.
Fred Lupo, then president of District 22 of the United Mine Workers of America (which includes Utah), told the Deseret News “It’s very offensive, very distasteful to families who have lost people.” He also explained that sites of major mining disasters are usually treated as sacred; some even become memorials.
Randy Sella, the general manager of the Silver Mine Adventure, disagreed saying, “There’s no way it is in any way demeaning or an attempt to disrespect miners or their families.” He added that the programming stemmed from the same historical information as the regular tours offered during the rest of the year. The Park Record reported that the programming was meant to commemorate those who had died, but did not cover the controversy.
Perhaps the Tunnel of Terror spelled the beginning of the end for the Park City Silver Mine Adventure, with the spirits of the men who died not happy about an attraction in their final resting place.
I remember going with a group of youth from the Utah Boys Ranch in about 1997. It was such a cool experience being able to participate in the Park City Silver Mine Adventure. I remember being fascinated with the mine and the bits of history that seamed to be still and timeless as I learned the history of those who worked at the Ontario Mine, I remember going through the main entrance and being taken to the gift shop / exhibit as there were a few things to keep one’s mind busy. I remember a table with rocks where children could sift through and try to find small ingots of gold, then there was the animated manikin that told the story of the mine. Then there was a gym-like open area that we were taken to, as we were told to put on a yellow rain poncho with the “Park City Silver Mine Adventure” logo on it, and then we would go down some porch-like steps as we walked over to the shaft or elevator entrance directly ahead. I still remember the accordion doors that slid open to allow us into the elevator, and then we would descend down the shaft and into the main mining area for the tour. I remember it getting drafty as we made our descent. I also recall in the history being told that the shaft in the mine was so deep, that the distance from top to bottom was significantly larger than that of the empire state building, and the statue of liberty. It was said that both could fit inside the shaft because the descent was about 2,000 feet. That’s quite a distance. The descent I remember took maybe 5-10 minutes to get from top to bottom, so if you were bored, it would be good to have something to yak about. As we would reach the shaft floor, I remember the small train with cage cars that would take us past the walls where blast marks could be seen from where the miners worked. Then we would be taken to 2-3 rooms where heavy machinery would be situated. I remember one room called “the hoist room” where we were shown a large hoist (about 8 feet tall and 9 feet wide with a conveyor belt that was thick and possibly 2 feet wide) which went up or fed the conveyor belt through a deep shaft to the top of the outside tower at the top of the building that you could see when you first came to park for the exhibit. In fact, if you looked through the shaft, you could see a tiny dot of light. Kind of an eerie feeling doing so, but it was kinda cool. The hoist was described to us, but I don’t remember what exactly is was used for unfortunately. I want to say it was used for hauling the mined materials into rail cars to be processed at another facility somewhere, but I’m not certain. I think we were also informed regarding some of the unfortunate events that happened there too. A somber feeling could be felt while hearing of some of these terrible accidents. Probably since then I have always had a quiet reverence and respect for those who had the guts and the courage to work in such a dangerous location knowing full well that ominous dangers that loomed above them if something every went wrong. This is about all I can recall about the adventure there, but I do remember it being quite a fun and fascinating experience. I was really disappointed to hear of it’s closing however. It could have impacted so many lives if it were still open today. Anyway, Hope this is helpful information 🙂 – Robert
I remember going down on the elevator in 6th or 7th grade so ’00 it was still opened for tours…
I remember going there twice while in elementary on a field trips, once with my mom, one with my dad. Now that I’m a parent I wish I could take my son, that experience obviously made an impression. Really disappointing that he won’t be able to experience this adventure. Maybe someone will obtain the rights and funding to open this again.
I remember going down to the mine! The elevator was pitch dark and the ride down seemed to last forever, I can still remember hearing water go ‘drip, drip, drip’ as you go down. It was so fascinating down there, I just remember really big tunnels and feeling so intimidated being so far down. You could also get your picture taken with a mining hat and poncho if I remember right. It’s a shame it’s closed, it was a great experience!
Yes!!! I remember this as a child! I was telling my wife about my experience of this as a kid and wanted to take our kids there and looked it up and found THIS!. I never knew it closed! This was such an impactful place on me and amazing place that kept my imagination going for years to come such an amazing local experience for many. Hopefully it returns!
My father recorded in his journal taking the tour Monday, August 09, 1999… so it was open at least that long.
I remember being in Salt Lake City a day before a conference I was to attend. I looked at a map (yes, believe it or not we used to use maps, back then, to see how to get places :-)) and decided to drive to Park City and work my way down to Provo and back to my hotel in Salt Lake City. As I was heading south out of Park City, I found the road closed due to snow. I was turning around in the Ontario Mine parking lot when I saw the mine entrance and decided to check it out. I went inside and was fascinated with the displays and decided to take a tour. I remember the guide taking us into a room, with us all sitting there in our mining gear, as she proceeded to tell us that this wasn’t a Disney exhibit. We all kind of chuckled and I kind of thought she was kidding. Then we were led to the cages that were to take us down some 1500 feet or so into the mine. As I noticed how they were loading the cars, my claustrophobia wanted to kick in, but I forced myself to get into one of the cages with others as they closed the doors. Somehow I managed to keep it all together and managed to make it to the bottom, I was so happy when they let us off. I remember the cavernous room, if you will, we came into, which helped relieve my fear. I resigned myself to thinking, well if there is a cave in, at least I would be buried very deep. Next was the cramped train ride we were crammed into, and the door was shut and latched on the outside! Now my fears peaked a little, but I didn’t have much time to think about it as the train speed back into the mine. When it stopped we were in a large room, if you will, and saw some men working, and the guide told us information about the mine. Then back on the train and back to the cages that were to take us back to the surface. I remember how they loaded the cages and who got off first, so I stepped aside and allowed others to board before me. Thankfully, my decision of which cage to enter paid off, and I was in the first group to exit the cages when we arrived at the starting point. I will never forget that experience and will always remember what a great experience it was.
The article is a little offensive in that it really trivializes the purpose and history of the PCSMA. I was a founding tour guide and sales manager (and 4th generation Ontario employee) there from the grand opening in 1997 to early 1999. With the help of truly outstanding exhibits and many dedicated workers, we educated around 400,000 visitors on the history and intracies of one of the world’s greatest deep underground, hard rock mines. However, it was difficult to maintain high volume interest after the first year or so and therefore hard to stay profitable. After some real estate development breakthroughs, the mining company lost interest in the project and quietly closed it down. THAT is what happened to the PCSMA…
My husband and I stumbled onto this in Oct 97 while on our honeymoon. I suffer from extreme claustrophobia and yet somehow he coaxed in the lift and down we went. I have NOTHING but fond, wonderful memories of this site and wish it would reopen. Alas, the hotel where we stayed closed as well and that is very sad as well. We went with friends to the Halloween portion and that was even more fun. It was imaginative and yes, a bit scary, but only because you knew it was based on truth and felt for those who had died. I can understand why it closed, kids today want to play video games in a virtual reality mine with zombie ghosts, but frankly, the real thing and the spirits who inhabit the mine are worth the telling of the story and way worth the price of admission!
I was one of the lucky few who enjoyed a high school field trip to the mine. I remember the yellow poncho and the drippy ride down the shaft. What a cool experience!
has the site been razed does anyone know? or still standing, albeit a ghost town? Would like to poke around there in a couple of weeks when I visit nearby.