The town of Guffey and the Freshwater Mining District are situated in a scenic valley near the base of three ancient volcanoes that have been deeply eroded. The volcanoes erupted between 34 and 36 million years ago, sending lahars flowing down their flanks, burying large redwood trees and damming the river in the valley below. This dam created Lake Florissant, where a large deposit of Eocene plant and insect fossils formed. The Guffey volcanic center is part of the Thirtynine Mile Volcanic Field. The Guffey volcanic center (or caldera) is the largest volcanic center within the Thirtynine Mile Volcanic area and is characterized by shallow plutonic rocks, composed of much basalt and rhyolite as well as other rocks. These rocks form a central complex of domes near the town of Guffey.
Today, Guffey is an unincorporated town with a post office and a population of about 26. It was founded in 1895, and named Freshwater, by prospectors on a chance there might be another rich gold strike like the one in Cripple Creek. The Freshwater post office was established in 1895, but since a California post office had the same name, Freshwater was changed to Idaville, after Ida McClavey Wagner who held mining claims on Gold Hill north of town. In 1896, the name was again changed to Guffey, after James McClurg Guffey. Guffey’s oil drilling company, JM Guffey Petroleum, later became Gulf Oil Company.
Prior to becoming the town of Guffey, the area was home to various Native American tribes, with the Utes mainly controlling the mountain areas, including Guffey. In the mid to late 1800’s the mining boom began, driving the Utes out. No large lodes were found in Guffey, and within several years the town was almost deserted when ranching became its economic base. By the early 1900’s, ranching and farming (mostly potatoes) became the most common means of survival for area residents. Today the town of Guffey has 14 sites and 25 buildings, many with their own history. Some of the sites have been restored to their original designs and are well worth viewing. Although the town itself boasts a population of only 26, the surrounding area is populated by 1200 to 1500 residents