chaffee county scenic byways
salida and buena vista scenic byways downtown salida colorado
salida colorado



gas creek schoolhouse
Gas Creek Schoolhouse




arkansas valley colorado
Early view of Colorado Ranchland




mt princeton hot springs
Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort




alpine tunnel train
Snow clearing near the Alpine Tunnel


Hecla Junction
Directions: Junction of Hwy 285 and CR 194

Following the Arkansas River, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway ran its mainline to Leadville through the rugged Browns Canyon and a branch line up a steep side gulch to the Calumet and Hecla mine complex – the richest iron source in Colorado. It took two narrow-gauge engines to muscle-load ore down the nearly impossible seven-percent grade, which operated from 1881 until 1901 when the Calumet branch line washed out in a flash flood. Hecla Junction is now a campground and heavily used take-out station for raft expeditions through the canyon.

Gas Creek School
Directions: Just south of Nathrop on CR 280

Built in 1890 this school was used until 1942. It reverted back to the Donley family and is now private property.

Zebulon Pike Wayside
Directions: Hwy 285 at Squaw Creek

Lt. Zebulon M. Pike led the first of four major U.S. Army exploring expeditions (1806-7) into Colorado territory after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase opened the Far West to expansion. Pike’s observations led to demarcation of the Arkansas River as the boundary between the U.S. and Spain in 1819 (Adams-Onis Treaty).  Pike--honored in the name Pikes Peak--along with Maj. Stephen H. Long, Capt. John Charles Frémont and Capt. John W. Gunnison (killed after passing through Colorado in Utah) all contributed valuable maps and detailed descriptions of terrain that would become civilized by Americans at the end of the century.

Centennial House (aka Weston House)
Directions: From Johnson's Corner (Hwy 24 East) cross the Arkansas River and make an immediate right onto CR 301; cross the river again and look for Centennial House on west side of the road

The prison to the north was authorized by the Seventh General Assembly as a Reformatory. The land south of the prison was used to raise crops and cattle to feed the prisoners. This house, built in 1876 by pioneer Philo Weston, became part of a prison dairy. Note, the Stone above the porch with the misspelled “CENTENIAL.” Somewhere across the road was the first Post Office in the county established in 1866 by John McPherson named for his wife, Helen.

Mt Princeton Hot Springs Hotel
Directions: From Nathrop, take CR 162 4.5 miles west to Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort

The hotel began as a three-story hotel built in 1879 by a group of miners who were wealthy due to the Mary Murphy Mine. In the late 1800s, the Mt Princeton Hot Springs Hotel had become a major tourist destination. During this time, the Denver and South Park & Pacific Railroad built a narrow gauge up Chalk Creek canyon that stretched to the famous Alpine Tunnel under Altman Pass. However, even with the railroads arriving, the hotel's business faltered. The hotel changed hands several times before 1915. New owners added a fourth floor to the hotel and towers that reached more than 100 feet into the sky. The hotel had its own railroad landing about 40 feet from the rear entrance. But the hotel's prosperity did not last when the last mine closed in 1924 and the railroad tore up its tracks in 1926. Mt Princeton Hot Springs Hotel has changed hands several more times over the years and is now a full service hotel and conference center with extensive renovations completed in 2007.

Alpine Tunnel -
Directions: Access from the town of Pitkin in Gunnison County; take Cumberland Pass Road (CR 765) from Pitkin; turn on to CR 839 to the Alpine Tunnel (caution, narrow dirt road)

Visitors can drive up to the turntable and restored depot at the western portal of the tunnel. The tunnel itself has collapsed and isn't accessible.

Marshall Pass -
Directions: The Denver and Rio Grande Way RR traveled over Marshall Pass via CR 200, located south of Poncha Springs.

The historic railroad provided passenger and freight service to the valley from 1881 to the 1950's. The railroad was photographed by the famous western photographer, William Henry Jackson, who chronicled images of the west. Visitors can start at the town site of Shirley and ascended the grade to the top of Marshall Pass. Mountain Ouray (13,971 ft) with its prominent "Devils Armchair" is visible during the drive. This is a great scenic drive for all types of vehicles.

Monarch Quarry -
Directions: Hwy 50 and Monarch Mountain

Of all the hundreds of mines in Chaffee County, Monarch lasted longest, almost 100 years, supplying silver initially from Madonna Mine, then limestone from Monarch quarry, owned by Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I) in Pueblo and served by the railroad until 1982. Nicholas Creede, who went on to fame and fortune in the Colorado city that bears his name, discovered the Madonna mine in 1878, but sold it before it became one of the state’s foremost silver producers.  Loading facilities and structures are still intact at the base of the quarry, but Monarch City, squeezed along the river, went bust after the collapse of silver prices in 1893 and the buildings were obliterated in a snow slide after the post office closed in 1904.

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