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July 21, 2022

Wichita State University Plane Crash

Today, I decided I'd go up and do some preliminary scouting of the Wichita State University plane crash in 1970.

On a Friday afternoon in 1970, the Wichita State University football team was attempting to cross the continental divide near Silver Plume, Colorado en route to play a football game in Utah in a Martin 404 airplane. But they couldn't climb fast enough, and the pilot flew the plane into the continental divide on Mount Trelease near Silver Plume, Colorado. It killed pretty much everyone on the private plane.

This guy does a pretty good job of explaining what happened and hiking up to the site.

Today, I decided I'd try to ride up and 1) find the location of the memorial to the team members that died in the crash and 2) find the trail-head of the trail that leads to the remains of the plane crash.

First, I rode up to Silver Plume, a small town just above Georgetown, CO. As part of my research, I was surprised to learn that Silver Plume was much more complicated than I'd realized. All I knew about the town was that it had a building or two in it and I never stopped there because it doesn't have a McDonald's, a Carl's Jr., or a Wendy's.

But, as it turns out, Silver Plume is somewhat like Georgetown, an old town from the 1860's sort of waiting to be discovered. I stopped and talked to a woman walking her dog, and apparently they do have some business on the weekends, with tourists stopping in for ice cream, etc.

Then, I got on I-70 and continued west. I was looking for the memorial to the people that perished in the WSU plane crash back on Friday, October 2, 1970. I was eventually able to locate the memorial on the North side of I-70.

As you go west on I-70, just past the Herman Gulch Trailhead Exit (Exit 218), at Mile Marker 217.4, you will see a large black electronic road sign over the westbound lanes of I-70. At this same location, you may notice power lines crossing the interstate. One tenth of a mile west of the road sign and the power lines, at Mile Marker 217.5, a small creek named "Dry Gulch" goes under I-70 flowing from north to south. On the north side of I-70, on the banks of this small creek is where you'll find the monument to the plane crash and the people that perished in it.

I found the memorial today, roughly 52 years after the plane crashed.

Here is a link to the WSU plane crash memorial.

If you have any trouble locating the memorial, it's fairly easy to bounce back and forth between the two exits off of I-70:

If you pass the memorial and you're westbound on I-70:
1) Take the Loveland Pass exit (Exit 216), and go back east to the Herman Gulch Trailhead Exit (Exit 218)
2) Get back on I-70 westbound, watch for the large road-sign crossing I-70 westbound and the power lines crossing the interstate. On the shoulder on the north side is the WSU plane crash memorial beside a very small ditch/creek (named Dry Creek).

Now, to get up to the actual site where the plane crashed, you have to stay on I-70 westbound to the Loveland Pass exit (Exit 216). Take the Loveland Pass exit (Exit 216) and double back on to Forest Service Road 193.1 heading north-east. After about 1/2 mile, there is a locked gate preventing you from driving any further. If you continue on foot, this dirt road FSR 193.1 will go northeast, then turn north, then it becomes a steep hike up to the actual plane crash site.

Get to know this 1.7-mile out-and-back trail near Silver Plume, Colorado. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 0 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking and walking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day.

Length = 1.7 mi
Elevation gain = 488 ft
Route type = Out & back

This guy explains how to hike up to the actual site of the plane crash.

Posted by Rob Kiser on July 21, 2022 at 9:57 PM


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