Travelers have always come to this Valley;
some are just passing through, many
will return, and a handful will stay - but
none will forget the vast beauty that is
Saguache County. From the time prehistoric
Ice Age peoples hunted giant
bison 11,200 years ago, through the
historic period when European settlers
carved out homes in the wilderness, we
remain a resilient bunch. Willing to forego
convenience of urban pleasures for
the quality of life in this peaceful open
place where the sun always shines and
the stars are as close as your backdoor.
This land of majestic vista has much
to offer those who seek an experience
apart from the ordinary.
Folks always ask us, “what is there to
do here?” This guide will show you all
the wonders of Saguache County – outdoor
recreation on public lands, religious
temples, quiet spaces to watch abundant
wildlife, and a deep culture full of history
and art. We invite you to come be a
part of it all – you’ll never forget it.
From the Sangre de Cristo to the San Juan Mountains, the
jagged peaks and rushing rivers of the San Luis Valley public
lands wrap themselves around this Rocky Mountain basin.
Whether viewing the mountain scenery from roads or
finding challenge on trails, visitors discover solitude and
self-reliance through uncrowded year-round recreation opportunities.
As recreation pressures increase in other parts
of Colorado, the public lands of the Saguache County maintain
their remote spirit and traditional culture.
The Rio Grande Forest and adjacent BLM lands form
the scenic and cultural backdrop to the Saguache County.
With a landscape of high peaks, geologic wonders, and
steep river canyons, the spectacular scenery beckons adventurers
from near and far. Culturally, the public lands
have been significant to generations of users and continue
to provide economic benefits to local communities through
recreation-based tourism and multiple uses. History is alive
at prehistoric Native American sites, historic mining camps,
and along the routes of early explorers and settlers.
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail winds
for 236 miles across the Rio Grande Forest and is managed
to protect its scenic and recreation values. The CDNST
stretches 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, creating a habitat corridor
for wildlife and hikers. For map and more information go
Special attractions include Sangre de Cristo and La
Garita Wilderness Areas, Penitente Canyon, significant
migratory wetlands, numerous 14,000 ft peaks, excellent
hunting, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Consistent
snow and excellent terrain create a winter wonderland
ready for enthusiasts of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing
and snowmobiles. With nearly half of the land designated
as Wilderness or backcountry, and the overall remote nature
of our public lands, the opportunities for solitude are
outstanding. The area continues to be a safe and inviting
place for families and social groups to experience the great
The Rio Grande National Forest and BLM lands are
managed public lands; the lands combined are called the
San Luis Valley Public Lands. Visit the Regional Forest
or the BLM
website for more information.
SAGUACHE COUNTY MUSEUM: CELEBRATING 50+ YEARS OF OPERATION!
Visitors may wonder how the tiny “homemade” collection
of living history by amateurs could grow and flourish for so
long. In a tribute to our forebears and in keeping with the
work ethic embedded from our agricultural heritage, this
Museum has won acclaim from visitors all over the United
States, and most foreign countries. They say: “This is the
best little historical museum we have ever seen!” Thanks to
the handful of devoted folks who care for all the historical
collections and items which tell the story of people of this
area. The “homey” atmosphere, and the way the collections
are displayed make you feel like you have stepped back a
hundred years and will give you a sense of what it was like
to live in pioneer days. There is something here for everyone,
of all ages, to see, learn about, and enjoy.
Open 9 to 4 Daily, from Memorial Day Weekend in May to Fall Festival, the third Saturday in September. Admission
is $5.00 for adults and $1.00 for children 12
and under, and for an additional $2.00 you can also take a
tour of the Hazard House Museum.
Saguache County is steeped in a rich history and boasts
a wealth of historic s ites. Here are a few of the best:
Robertson’s Flour Mill: The original grist mill was
constructed by Otto Mears in the late 1860s to provide flour
for the Indian agency and the settlers of the northern area of
the San Luis Valley. It is one of the few water-powered grist
mills still standing in the Western United States. Tours can
be arranged by appointment only by calling 719-221-3869.
Downtown Saguache: Saguache began as a trading
post on the Old Spanish Trail and flourished as a supply
center for the surrounding mining camps. Since the railroad
never extended to this corner of the County, it remains
an endearing sleepy downtown. Pamphlets describing the
downtown are available at the Museum, Hazard House, and
the Saguache Crescent (one of the few linotype newspapers still
Bonanza: Bonanza sits nestled at the base of the southern
Sawatch Mountains. Founded in 1880 as a thriving
mining camp, it is now the smallest incorporated town in
Colorado, with a population of just 16. Visitors to Bonanza
may explore its historic cemeteries and take in the views
of the aspen covered peaks named for the Ute tribal leaders,
Chipeta and Ouray and Mount KIA/MIA. Signage in
the town and a U.S. Forest Service brochure interprets this
historic mining district.
Crestone School House: The old Crestone Schoolhouse
is a National Historic Register site that dates to the 1880s.
This rural schoolhouse served local schoolchildren until 1949.
The School House is now the Community Center and located
on Cottonwood St.
Moffat Community Church: The church was built by
the town’s citizens using a machine ordered from the Sear’s
catalogue which formed concrete
blocks to look like stone,
which were then mortared together. This is the second year
of a Colorado State Historical Society grant to preserve this valuable historical structure and convert it into a community
center and town hall. www.moffatcolorado.org
Old Spanish Trail Markers: In several places, the roads
and highways of the Saguache County intersect the Old
Spanish Trail, a historic trade route linking Santa Fe,
NM with Los Angeles, CA. This route followed even
earlier routes established by Native Americans.
In 2002, the Old Spanish Trail became part of
the National Historic Trails system. http://www.oldspanishtrail.org
COUNTRY RURAL LIFESTYLES - Farming & Ranching
The first permanent settlements in Saguache County
were established in the mid-1860s near the presentday
towns of Villa Grove and Saguache. Wheat was
grown and milled into flour, then transported over toll
roads to mining camps in the Colorado mountains.
By the 1870s gold and silver were discovered in the
Sangre de Cristos and mining camps sprang up
The advent of the railroad allowed products to
be shipped over the mountains and connected remote
settlements with the outside world.
A robust farm and ranching sector then arose to
feed the large influx of people involved in these enterprises.
Sheep and cattle did very well on the lush
summer pastures in
the high country. Today very little of the
mining remains, but
the county remains an
The area around
Center is the “bread
basket” of the county,
and San Luis Valley
potatoes are famous
throughout the country.
barley and alfalfa are
also grown here in the
high altitude valley in
the world. Cattle, sheep
and goats graze the grasslands surrounding the towns
of Moffat and La Garita.
The historic ranching industry has evolved to meet
the needs of modern consumers. Many grass-fed beef
enterprises produce high quality natural beef, and goat
dairies make specialty cheeses and milk. Local artisans
weave yarn from llamas, sheep and goats, that they
raise themselves, into beautiful garments and works
Saguache County is a place where the working
cowboy still rides the range, checking the herd; where
summer days are spent toiling in the hay fields to bring
in the feed to get the stock through the long, cold high
desert winters. It is a place where lonely homesteads
have more horses in the corral than cars in the garage,
and where dogs earn their keep; where you know your
neighbor and are always ready to lend a hand during branding time.
|Moffat cowboy poet, Peggy Godfrey, sums up our
rural lifestyle wonderfully in this poem:
|I’ve learned to see the mountains
as more than stone and mud.
Come to know my neighbors
as more than flesh and blood.
I’ve grown to see the work I do
as more than passing time.
Poetry means more to me
than getting words to rhyme.
I’m now aware each day is more
than getting on with life.
I see myself as more than just
my role as mom or wife.
Life offers me a framework
like bones stripped bare and white.
What I can do is flesh them in
with muscle, love and light.
NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH