Canon City, Salida, And Gunnison
Photoshopped photo of Gunnison
October 21, 2020
Here are some facts about the three towns I have been in the past few days.
Cañon City (/ˈkænjən/) is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Fremont County, Colorado. The city population was 16,400 at the 2010 Census. Cañon City straddles the easterly flowing Arkansas River and is a popular tourist destination for sightseeing, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing. The city is known for its many public parks, fossil discoveries, Skyline Drive, The Royal Gorge railroad, the Royal Gorge, and extensive natural hiking paths.
In 1994, the United States Board on Geographic Names approved adding the tilde to the official name of Cañon City, a change from Canon City as the official name in its decisions of 1906 and 1975. It is one of the few U.S. cities to have the Spanish Ñ in its name, others being La Cañada Flintridge, California; Española, New Mexico; Peñasco, New Mexico; and Cañones, New Mexico.
Cañon City was laid out on January 17, 1858, during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush, but then the land was left idle. A new company "jumped the claim" to the town's site in late 1859, and it put up the first building in February 1860. This town was originally intended as a commercial center for mining in South Park and the upper Arkansas River.
In 1861, the town raised two companies of volunteers to serve with the Second Colorado Infantry during the American Civil War. This regiment fought in skirmishes in nearby New Mexico and as far east as the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Missouri before ending its organization in 1865.
In 1862, A. M. Cassaday drilled for petroleum 6 miles north of Cañon City, close to a known oil seep. Cassaday struck oil at the depth of 50 feet and he completed the first commercial oil well west of the Mississippi River. He drilled five or six more wells nearby, and he refined kerosene and fuel oil from the petroleum. Cassaday sold the products in Denver.
Cañon City is located in eastern Fremont County at an altitude of 5,332 feet. It sits primarily on the north side of the Arkansas River, just east of where the river exits from Royal Gorge. It is bordered to the south by the unincorporated community of Lincoln Park. Via U.S. Route 50, Pueblo is 39 miles to the east and Poncha Springs is 62 miles to the west. Colorado Springs is 45 miles to the northeast.
The city's nickname, "the Climate Capital of Colorado", derives from the combination of unique geography and 5,300-foot elevation protecting the city from harsh weather conditions. The average daily high temperature in January is 14 °F warmer in Cañon City than in Grand Junction, even though the elevation of Cañon City is higher.
The average minimum temperature in January is 20 °F. During July, overnight lows are 59 °F (15 °C) on average. Cañon City has a semi-arid climate
The area being situated along the Arkansas River has allowed for soil suitable to orchards, ranching and farming, but Cañon City has slowly transitioned from an agricultural community to more of a diverse economy including not only agriculture, but tourism, education, manufacturing, medicine and many other sectors.
Cañon City depends on its tourism industry which includes the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Red Canyon Park, The Abbey winery, and various other attractions. The major employers in Cañon City include the quaint downtown shops, the entrepreneurial TechSTART initiative that attracts major technology-based entrepreneurs, Colorado Department of Corrections and Centura Health (owner of St. Thomas More Hospital and the Progressive Care Center).
Colorado Department of Corrections operates the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City. In addition to several correctional facilities near Cañon City in unincorporated areas in Fremont County, Colorado State Penitentiary, the location of the state death row and execution chamber is in Fremont County. Other state prisons in Fremont County include Arrowhead Correctional Center, Centennial Correctional Facility, Fremont Correctional Facility, Four Mile Correctional Center, and Skyline Correctional Center.
The Colorado Women's Correctional Facility near Cañon City in unincorporated Fremont County, was decommissioned on June 4, 2009.
Prisons have served an important significance to both Cañon City and the surrounding areas of Fremont County, as well as to the state of Colorado. The Museum of Colorado Prisons has been given the role of preserving and presenting the past of the state's corrections system.
Salida (/səˈlaɪdə/ sə-LY-də; Spanish: [saˈliða], "exit") is a statutory city that is the county seat and most populous city of Chaffee County, Colorado, United States. The population was 5,236 at the 2010 census.
A post office has been in operation at Salida since 1881. The community was named on account of its distance from a nearby canyon, Salida meaning "exit" in Spanish.
Gunnison is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Gunnison County, Colorado, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 5,854. It was named in honor of John W. Gunnison, a United States Army officer who surveyed for the transcontinental railroad in 1853. Gunnison is a home rule municipality which reserves the right to choose how it is governed.
The town of Gunnison got its name from the first known Anglo-Saxon explorer of the area, John W. Gunnison. He was searching for a route for the transcontinental railroad in 1853 and only stayed for three days before traveling west to Utah. Gunnison saw its first population increase in the 1870s, due to the mining surge throughout the state. The railroad arrived soon after in 1880 to appreciative miners, ranchers, and farmers.
In the early 1800s, the groups moving into the Gunnison area were mainly fur trappers and mountain men, trying to make a living for themselves in the rocky mountain terrain. But a drop in fur prices in the 1840s essentially cut out the need for their jobs.
The late 1850s saw the start of people joining the hunt for gold in Gunnison county. Miners were in search of placer gold, but with the growing numbers of white men in the area, this brought conflict between the Ute tribes still around the county. At least several miners were killed by these tribes and this caused some of the miners to flee the area, caring more for their lives than potential gold bonanzas.
With the mining boom, Gunnison began to see an increase of people around the 1870s. Along with the miners coming in, ranchers and farmers were among the others that led to the Ute people becoming forced out of the area. The mining camps in Gunnison and around the county reportedly produced about 130,000 ounces of gold from the beginning of the gold rush through 1959. At the start this was mostly from placer deposits, but the largest amounts were from a by-product of silver-lead ore. The largest deposits were found along the Taylor River, as well as the Tincup and the Washington Gulch districts.
Before the railroad reached Gunnison in 1880, there was a debate as to which railroad line would claim the town as their territory. The D&RG and DSP&P were both battling for control over the area. This split the town into two sides, both disagreeing as to where the railroad depots should be placed in town. The "old" and "new" sides of town ended up agreeing to disagree and were happy to have any railroad come through town. Both lines ended up coming through town anyway, although the DSP&P shortly discontinued service to Gunnison. The D&RG was later reorganized as the D&RGW railroad and was a prominent line to Gunnison for about seventy years; it served as the primary means of transportation for the townspeople into the 1950s.
Also in 1880, the cattle industry in Gunnison was established. Realizing the poor conditions for farming (with only about eleven inches of rainfall annually and the short growing season due to the high elevation and alpine environment) the local farmers turned to ranching and began breeding cattle. To do this effectively, they had to clear and level fields for grazing purposes. Irrigation ditches also had to be cut into the ground to properly irrigate the fields in order to grow hay for the horses and cattle. Many of these practices are still in use, which can be seen while driving through and around the town to the various ranches that are still in operation.
John and William Outcalt were among the earliest settlers of Gunnison. They started their own ranch just north of town along the southeast bank of the Gunnison river. The brothers hailed from New Jersey, but decided to make the trip west for the sake of adventure and the prospect of making money. The eldest brother, John, built the irrigation system for their ranch and quickly began growing hay and other various grains. When the railroad came through town, he convinced them to expand more and ended up paying for and building the rail that ran through his property. Naming this stop Hay Spur, they produced enough hay to ship out over 800 carloads each year, which mainly headed north to the settlers of which is now the town of Crested Butte, helping feed their mules. Along with the hay, carloads of potatoes and other vegetables from the Gunnison area were being sent to Crested Butte to supply the miners with food and also to support their animals. John Outcalt is also known to be one of the most famous men in the town. He helped build the Paragon School, which is still standing today in the Gunnison Pioneer Society museum on the east end of town.
Originally a shipbuilder and carpenter in New Jersey, he incorporated his skills in the building of the school which is why it is still standing today. John was also praised by the local natives; when he first arrived in town he worked as a carpenter on the Los Pinos Indian reservation, and was considered the most trusted White man in the area. This helped in the long run because, according to legend, they saved his life on numerous occasions.
Gunnison residents isolated themselves from the surrounding area during the Spanish Influenza epidemic for two months at the end of 1918. All highways were barricaded near the county lines. Train conductors warned all passengers that if they stepped outside of the train in Gunnison, they would be arrested and quarantined for five days. This served as partial inspiration for the novel The Last Town on Earth (2006) by Thomas Mullen. The isolation was ultimately unsuccessful, as townspeople became restless after a few months, and the isolation was lifted in February 1919 only to have the flu arrive a month later, killing several.
Gunnison County is situated at an altitude of 7,703 feet. Gunnison is near Blue Mesa Reservoir. Primary access to Gunnison is from Salida to the east via Monarch Pass or from Montrose, Colorado to the west via Cerro Summit on U.S. Highway 50. U.S. Highway 50 is the main east-west thoroughfare through the town. There are numerous other ways to get to Gunnison, some of which are subject to seasonal closures (Kebler Pass, Cottonwood Pass). At the 2010 Census there was a population of 15,324 within the county.
Gunnison is located at the bottom of several valleys. Due to its location in the Rocky Mountains, cold air in all the valleys settles into Gunnison at night, making it one of the coldest places in winter in the United States, especially when snowpack is present. The average January low is −8 °F (−22 °C), and the average July high is 82 °F (28 °C). The record low is −60 °F (−51 °C), recorded at Blue Mesa Reservoir. The record high is 98 °F (37 °C), set on August 15, 1931.
The city typically experiences moderate snowfalls, with an average of 50 inches per year. Early fall and late spring snows are not uncommon, and snow can remain on the ground in town from as early as November to as late as April. Surrounding mountains experience very heavy snowfall with longer periods of snow on the ground. Many locations average 300–400 inches of snow annually. The snow is welcome to the area, as it is beneficial to water supplies and local ski resorts. Total liquid precipitation averages nearly 11 inches per year in the city of Gunnison, while surrounding mountains may receive anywhere from 15 to over 40 inches annually, depending upon elevation and local topography.