We learned real quick that we were in the western slope of Colorado and that this area was different than being on the other side of the Rockies. This is the land of the valleys, canyons, farming, and reservoirs. Things are really beautiful and with so much to see you just don’t know where to start.
The town of Crawford was a unique place as it is just a small town with a population of less than 500 that was established in 1882. There was only one restaurant when we arrived but a second one was opened before we left the area; there is a hotel with 6 rooms that is above the feed store, a post office and a lovely old Methodist Church that was built in 1900 for only $164.
The place we had to go to do our shopping was in Hotchkiss, CO. This is a “city” with a population of less than 1,000. There is more here as there is a grocery store, 3 hotels, and a few restaurants to choose from.
The first settlers was in the late1879 early1880, when it was technically illegal to be there, picking out likely homesteads while the Utes were still in possession of the land. Then in 1881when the land was taken from the Utes, two of the settlers with a a herd of 200 horses came back and were the first into the valley as legal settlers.
When we moved over to Sweitzer Lake State Park, we were now in Delta, CO. Delta is the county seat for the area and has a population of less that 9,000, which is the largest population of any place in Delta County. This was the location we had to come to for any major shopping while we were at Crawford. They have a Wal-Mart, 3 major grocery stores, and numerous restaurants. The town sits where the Gunnison River and Uncompahgre River intersect as was a fur trading post for the Ute Indians in 1826. It was known as Fort Uncompahgre at that time. In 1882 the name was changed and the town of Delta was established. The town is now known for the murals pained on the side of the building throughout.
One of the other neat towns in the area is Paonia, which has a population of less that 1,500 and is known for it production of cherries. Paonia State Park on the reservoir is close by and is the major primitive camping spot in the area. This area was occupied by the Ute Indians until 1880 when the settlers came in and ran the Indians out. The town was incorporated in 1902. It has had a interesting history as the cattle ranchers created a secret society to run off the sheep herders and were known as the “Night Riders” . They would run the sheep off the cliffs at night and/or massacred only at night. Learn more about the history of this town visit the website as its history is fun Town History
To the south side of Sweitzer was the city of Montrose. Montrose is the most populated city in Montrose County of just under 20,000 and is the county seat. We have now entered in the the biggest city close to us. It is really neat being around such small towns and cities; just being out of the Houston and all its traffic has been great. Montrose is the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (more on that later). The city has everything one could want but Fred says it has Russell Stover’s Chocolate Factory and a number of Breweries – what else do you need!! The first settlers were again back in the 1870’s but it was not until the Ute Indians were “officially” removed from the land in 1881 were the settlers ever able to claim the land. Montrose officially became a town in 1882. The town at first supported the miners in the area but soon became a major agriculture hub and the railroad came to the town. The closest airport to us was also located in Montrose; if you needed anything big this was the closest place to go.
Horsefly Brewery and Pub
One of our favorite small towns in the area was Cedaredge. This town is on the southern slope of Grand Mesa (next chapter) and is just a beautiful, friendly town with a population of less than 2,300. They have what is called the Serenity Run each year, which is bikers that are recovering alcoholic and/or drug users on their way to Sturgis, SD. It was interesting seeing all them and at the campground they stay at they have a day filled with games and fun. (Serenity Run 2015)
They have also really preserved their history at Pioneer Village; a museum as you enter town with original building of their past.
We also lots of fun at the brewery, distillery and couple of wineries that were in the area.
One of the other towns in the area that we made to trip to was Ridgeway, CO. This was further north and near the entrance to the million dollar highway. Gateway to the San Juan Mountains. Not to under shadow the San Juan Mountains, but just to the east is the Cinnamon Mountains. Between the two ranges and being the in the Uncompaghre Valley you will not find a more picturesque place. The town was the site for the movie True Grit and many of the buildings are still used today as business. Dennis Weaver was born and raised here and his son still sits on the city counsel and the population is less than 900. The town history is full of rancher, miners and railroad history. The Rio Grande Southern Railway (R.G.S) was one of the first railways passing through Durango, the rich mining camps of Telluride and Rico. The R.G.S. was 162 miles long,crossed more than 140 bridges and trestles and connected to the Ouray branch of the Denver & Rio Grande at Ridgway. Great little town to visit and hang out at. Oh it is also a major skiing location during the winter months as Telluride is close by.
If you ever get the chance visit any of these towns and they were fun and unique in their each individual way. Loved our time in Colorado.