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Rocky Mountain Region

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"Crown Jewels"

Select a site to view from the list below:


> Arrowhead Lodge
> High Altitude Game Drives
> Alpine Tunnel
> Dry Mesa Quarry
> Raber Cow Camp Cabins
> The Santa Fe Trail
> Prehistoric Rock Art Sites
> Purgatoire River Dinosaur Tracksite
> Pikes Peak
> Picket Wire Canyonlands
> Clear Creek Mining District
> Windy Ridge Quarry Site
> Teller City Ghost Town
> Hog Park Tie-Hack Site

> Chimney Rock Archaeological Area
> Falls Creek Archaeological Area
> Jersey Jim Fire Tower
> Lost Canyon Cliff Dwellings
> Harris Cabin
> Turkey Springs and Silver Falls Guard Stations
> Spring Creek - HD Archaeological District
> Anasazi Archeological District (McPhee Reservoir)
> San Juan Skyway
> CCC Historic Remains
> Historic Markers
> Lone Dome Recreation Area and Bradfield Ranch
> Durango to Silverton Railroad
> Elwood Cabin & Brewery Creek Guard Station
> Ute Trail



> Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Site Research and Learning Center
> Fossils of the White River Badlands


> Warbonnet Battlefield
> Bessey Tree Nursery and Forest District

South Dakota

> The Kenzy Fossil Bison Site



> Shell Falls
> Sand Lake Campsite
> Brush Creek Work Center
> Ryan Park Campground
> Jack Creek Guard Station
> Stateline Interpretive Trail
> East Fork Tie-Hack District
> Walker Teepee Rings

> Anderson Lodge
> Mummy Cave
> Helen Lookingbill Paleoindian Site
> Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail
> Historic Wapiti Ranger Station
> Townsite of Kirwin



This lodge on the Red Feather Ranger District was recently acquired by the Forest. Built in 1938, it represents tourism in the Rocky Mountains when families spent their vacation at a single place. Local volunteers have begun restoration and will have the lodge open as a VIS Center and museum from May to September.


Forty-two stone game drive systems, used by prehistoric Native Americans, have been recorded on the Arapaho-Roosevelt NF's. They range in age from Paleoindian (9000 years ago) to Late Prehistoric (500 years ago) and are located above timberline along the Continental Divide. The substantial stone walls and hunting blinds are believed to have been used to hunt bighorn sheep, elk, and deer.

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The journals of many settlers in the Big Horn Basin mention Shell Falls. Whole families would often forsake the summer heat of their lowland ranches and farms and make a special trip to the Falls. This part of the Big Horn country was very remote to outsiders until recently, when the Burlington Northern Railroad reached Greybull and tourists ventured into the area in the early 1920's.

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The Kenzy site is a fossil bison site located on the Hell Canyon Ranger District. Preliminary interdisciplinary teams of scientists at the site have produced some exciting information.

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The Alpine Tunnel Historic District includes a tunnel complex and approximately 13 miles of the narrow gauge railroad right-of-way. Historic features include several water tanks, a restored depot, ruins of a boarding house, crew bunkhouse, engine house and turntable, work camps and a dry laid stone supporting wall known as the "Palisades". The tunnel, utilized from 1881 to 1910, was the first to be bored through the Colorado Continental Divide and remains the highest railroad tunnel and the longest narrow gauge tunnel in North America.


Found by Vivian and Eddie Jones in 1971, Dry Mesa was excavated by Dr. James "Dinosaur Jim" Jensen of Brigham Young University. Excavations continue by BYU under Dr. Wade Miller and Dr. Ken Stadtman. Dry Mesa is late Jurassic - early Cretaceous, a quarry of disarticulated fossils. Why is it so significant? So many different kinds of dinosaurs and non-dinosaurs at a single location in the Morrison Formation. Super giant sauropods were first located here (Supersaurus found in 1972 and Ultrasaurus found in 1977) and the oldest bird may have been located here.


Built in the 1930's of local logs, these cabins tell the history of cattle operations of the Grand Mesa. Winifred Raber, who lived at the camp every summer from 1939 to 1964 was an important member of the community and a leader in the Stockwomen's Association.

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Contact: Dave McKee 307-326-5258


A prehistoric campsite located at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the Medicine Bow Mountains. A volunteer excavation program was conducted in 1991 in order to record this site which contains evidence of human occupation beginning in the Paleoindian period and continuing through the late prehistoric period. The site contains a wide variety of tools made from local stone materials as well as rare material such as yellowstone obsidian.


This early ranger station contains an office, residence, and garage constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. This complex, eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, is currently being developed as a Visitor Information Center. The Center, located on the Snowy Range Scenic By-way, will feature interpretation of the CCC era and early Forest Service History.


The Ryan Park Campground was the location of a CCC camp during the 1930's and a Prisoner of war camp in the 1940's. The campground will be remodeled and include an interpretive trail leading to the old prisoner of war building foundations. Interpretive signing will relate the role of the CCC and prisoner of war camp in local history. Local high School history classes have participated in excavations at the site while future volunteer excavations at the site are planned.


Built in the 1930's, this guard station is a Rocky Mountain style cabin, representative of the early Forest Service Administrative Period. This structure, set in a grove of quaking aspen, is on the National Register of Historic Places.


A project in progress, the trail will lead visitors to a prehistoric campsite, historic logging camp, and historic copper mine. Volunteer excavations will be conducted at the prehistoric Hog Park Ceramic site in July of 1993. Interpretive work will also be conducted at the Jesse Copper mine this summer, including construction of a viewing stand over the original mine shaft and placement of interpretive signs with photographs of the mine during its working days.


Located along the scenic East Fork of the Encampment River, the old trail leads one through a number of logging camps, inhabited at the turn of the century by tie-hacks working for Carbon Timber Company between 1902 and 1912. A walk through the area provides the visitor with a strong sense of the historic use of the forest. Many of these camps are well preserved and offer the visitor a unique historical experience.


The Walker Teepee Ring Site consists of a stone circle site which stretches for almost a mile along a narrow ridge of the Thunder Basin National Grassland. A total of 66 stone circles are found along the ridge grouped in several clusters. The excavation at the Walker Site was the first Passport in Time project hosted by the Medicine Bow National Forest.

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Approximately 8000-10000 years ago a unique and mysterious event occurred high on the Northern Plains in Nebraska. Over 600 bison of an extinct species have been found in this concentration, along with remains of Paleoindian utilization. How the animals dies, or the exact relationship to the Paleoindian culture are questions that are still unanswered. The information gathered from annual excavations will eventually be displayed in a museum type setting to be built on the eastern boundary of historic Ft. Robinson, near Crawford, Nebraska.


Vertebrate fossils are rare in the fossil record as the environment where terrestrial animals live is not conducive to preservation. However, within northwest Nebraska and southwest South Dakota, is one of the most extensive fossil mammal records on earth. The White River Badlands provides a look 40 million years into the past. Recorded in the sediments of the Badlands National Park and Toadstool Park is the rise of many modern families of mammals such as rhinos, horses, camels, raccoons, beavers, hyenas, and bears, just to name a few. Fossil enthusiasts, including amateur and commercial fossil collectors and researchers from all corners of the globe visit the White River Badlands to explore the ancient past.


A few weeks after General G. A. Custer met his demise on the Little Bighorn a troupe of army soldiers encountered a group Cheyenne and Sioux Indians on their way to join forces with Sitting Bull. A battle erupted between some army scouts and several Cheyenne warriors. During the gunfight Buffalo Bill Cody, an army guide who would later become an icon of western folklore, shot and killed a Cheyenne sub-chief named Yellow Hand. Two monuments mark the location of the battle at a remote site that looks much the way it did 120 years ago. Visitors may tour the site and learn more about this historic event.


Nearly 100 years ago Dr. Charles Bessey, a plant biologist, pursued an idea that the mostly treeless Sand Hills country of Nebraska could support a forest. With Federal support an experiment was started that is now the largest forest planted by people in the northern hemisphere. This forest of Eastern red cedar, Jack pine and Ponderosa pine now covers 90,000 acres. The historic administrative buildings, a fire lookout tower, and an active nursery are on the National Register of Historic Places and can be seen by visitors.

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The Santa Fe Trail was one of the pioneering travel routes on the nation's western Frontier from 1820 to 1880. The Trail for much of its use life began near Franklin, Missouri and crossed over 1200 miles of the High Plains country of the Midwest to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Trail was primarily a commerce route, but was also used by fortune seekers, soldiers, and mountain men. The Trail was designated a National Historic Trail in 1987. Major routes of the Trail are preserved on the Cimarron National Grassland, southwest Kansas, and the Comanche National Grassland, southeast Kansas. Both Grasslands and local communities welcome the visitor who is interested in the history of the Old West. Waysides with interpretive panels are provided for the visitor who is traveling by car or bus and picnic facilities are nearby. The Cimarron Grassland also has a Companion Trail adjacent to the historic Trail where one can relive the experience of traveling on the frontier.


The Comanche National Grassland maintains several sites where the visitor can view and experience prehistoric American Indian rock art in spectacular and unspoiled natural settings. The rock art is in the form of extensive panel groupings featuring animal and abstract forms; both petroglyphs (pecked or carved into the rock) and pictographs (painting in natural pigments) are preserved. Three separate locations are available currently, Vogel Canyon near La Junta and Picture Canyon and Carrizo Creek near Springfield. The Forest Service provides picnic facilities and restrooms at all three locations. It is necessary to walk a moderate distance (less than one mile) to the rock art sites.


On the banks of the Purgatoire River in the Picket Wire Canyonlands, Comanche National Grassland, is the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America. The tracksite exhibits some of the longest documented individual trackways in the world including what apparently are the parallel tracks of a small herd of brontosaurs (large four-footed dinosaurs). Also preserved at the tracksite are the tracks of allosaurs (carnivorous dinosaurs) and other forms that walked on two legs. Because of changing travel and weather conditions, the visitor should contact the Forest Service office in La Junta before planning to visit the tracksite.


Pikes Peak, looming over the city of Colorado Springs in the Front Range of the Rockies, is a lasting symbol of the 1859 Colorado gold rush which ultimately fashioned the history of the state. Gold fever broke out in the eastern settled part of the nation soon after rumors of rich strikes in the Rocky Mountains in 1858. By the next year, restless adventurers set out for the Rockies, many with the motto of the gold rush "Pikes Peak or Bust" painted on the canvas of their wagons. The Pike National Forest and the City of Colorado Springs maintain a visitors center on the crest of the peak, which is registered as a national historic landmark. From the crest visitors can look over the arid eastern plains of the state which were a formidable barrier to the gold seekers. The top of the mountain is accessible by auto road, cog railroad, or by foot trail for the hardy.


Near La Junta, CO, the Canyonlands are the main canyon of the Purgatoire River and several side canyons situated on the High Plains steppe of eastern Colorado. The area can be via by a well-marked highway and gravel road from La Junta to a trailhead near the canyon and then by hiking or biking; or, alternatively by guided tour. Plan for an all-day expedition and bring your four-wheel drive. Attractions include the largest documented dinosaur tracksite in the U.S., artistic and enigmatic prehistoric rock art, and the ruins of early Hispanic settlement. The Comanche National Grassland administers this site.



Nestled in the heart of the Collegiate Range which forms part of the Continental Divide is Clear Creek, where remnants of the Colorado High Country historic mining boom are preserved in a pristine setting. The steep-sided canyon formed by the creek was the location of a short-lived gold and silver boom in the late 19th century, and life in the canyon was frenetic before returning to peaceful times after the precious metal veins played out. The San Isabel National Forest manages Clear Creek to preserve its irreplaceable mining era resources. The visitor can plan a one-day trip to the canyon to experience and learn about its cultural and natural history. Historic log houses and other buildings are preserved at the former mining towns of Beaver City, Vicksburg, and Winfield; the latter two are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A small museum is maintained at Vicksburg where one can obtain a handout describing the mining history of the canyon. The visitor can experience the flavor of a small mountain mining community merely by walking the main street of Vicksburg where most of the original buildings are maintained in their original state. Clear Creek canyon is a short distance from U.S. Highway 24 between Buena Vista and Leadville.

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Windy Ridge is an extensive prehistoric toolstone quarry site that has been used by American Indians for over 10,000 years. This site is impressive not only because of its fantastic archaeology, but also because it is set in such a beautiful location. From the top of the main quarry ridge, one can see Rabbit Ears Peak to the north and Whiteley Peak to the east. The surrounding area has many sites and locations that are of spiritual and religious significance to the historic Utes and other American Indians who were traveling between Middle and North Parks.


The silver boom of the late 1800s caused many mining communities to spring up literally overnight. One of the largest and best preserved of these boom towns is Teller City, located in western North Park, Colorado. In its heyday, Teller City boasted a population of 1,300, had a 40-room hotel, a newspaper, and 27 saloons. In 1885, the bottom dropped out of the silver market, and the town went bust--residents left so quickly that dirty dishes were left on their tables.


Located on the Colorado-Wyoming border, this was the site of turn of the century tie-hacks, whose job it was to cut down trees and make ties for the ever-expanding western railroads. The site itself consists of dozens of historic cabins and associated features that date between 1902 and 1912.

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The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area is one of the many natural and cultural attractions of the San Juan/Rio Grande National Forest. The site's twin pinnacles have served travelers as a readily identifiable landmark for centuries. In Prehistoric times the site was a home and shrine to an agricultural culture called the Anasazi. The ruins of their settlement, located high on the ridge leading to the "chimneys", hold a commanding view of the surrounding San Juan Mountains and Piedra River valley. Although the precise function of the site is unknown, it has been theorized that among other things it may have served as an observatory for the "lunar standstill" phenomenon which occurs every 18 years. The site is still held as a sacred place by the Indians of the Taos Pueblo and Southern Ute Tribe. A guided tour program is operated through a partnership between the Forest Service and the San Juan Mountains Association, a non-profit volunteer organization that promotes public education. The site, which serves as many as 14,000 visitors annually, is also the subject of numerous special interpretive and cultural events including school tours, volunteer work projects with local high schools and other organizations, Hopi Indian dances, guest lectures by visiting archaeologists, and unique "moonrise" lectures by J. M. Malville, astronomer from the University of Colorado.


The Falls Creek Archaeological Area was created in 1993 as only the second archaeological area in Region 2. The 1500 acre area protects and provides public access the prehistoric Anasazi remains found in a narrow "Hidden Valley" near Durango, Colorado. These remains are from the oldest and earlier sites of the Anasazi and date between approximately 200 B.C. and 500 A.D. The centerpiece of the area are two large deep sandstone overhangs or "rock shelters" called respectively the North and South Durango Rock Shelters. Within these shelters were excavated approximately 47 human remains including the best preserved human "mummies" ever found in the United States. With them were rare objects such as sandals, jewelry, tools, baskets, and other prehistoric artifacts rarely preserved over a two thousand year history. The back walls of the caves are dotted with colorful pictographs or rock art of the Anasazi peoples. The valley is also considered to be important winter Elk habitat and provides for a variety of recreational opportunities.


This "classic" fire tower used to locate wildfire in the western part of the San Juan Mountains for many years has been converted by the Forest Service into a unique recreational and interpretive experience. Fire Towers were once the sole domain of Forest Service fire wardens and the public rarely if ever had the opportunity to visit or stay in such a structure. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Jersey Jim Foundation, the tower is available to the public on a rental basis. Visitors can spend a day and night in the tower for a modest fee and enjoy the spectacular view and have a sense of the experience that fire spotters must have had for many year when the tower was still in use. The tower is located on the Mancos District and information concerning it's rental can be obtained from them.


This small ruin is the northern most example of the thousands of "Cliff Dwellings" constructed by Anasazi peoples between about 1150 AD and 1300 AD in Southwestern Colorado. While the larger of these types of ruins are found at nearby Mesa Verde National Park, the Lost Canyon ruins allow a more personal visit to an isolated and difficult to reach place. Infrequent tours to this site are offered by rangers from the Dolores Ranger District. For more information about the summer tours, call the district.


This old "cow camp" was acquired by the San Juan National Forest as part of a land exchange in 1992. The cabin was used by ranchers or permittees as a part of the summer operations of Southwestern Colorado cattlemen from about 1910 until a decade or so ago. The cabin is presently closed to the public, while the Forest Service stabilizes the structure and refurbishes it as a "line shack or cow camp" in order to allow a younger and more urban generation the opportunity to experience the "real west" in Colorado. The cabin will be refurbished with furniture and fittings of the turn of the century.


These two historic Forest Service Guard Stations located on the Pagosa Ranger District have been repaired and made available for the public to rent. Both are typical of the small outlying stations (called guard stations because they were used to "guard" the forest from wildfire and other detrimental uses by early rangers on the forest. Both are small simple cabins with beds and minimal facilities, but retain the flavor of the Forest Service before major roads and recreational facilities were built after World War II. both stations date to the early part of this century and can be reached only both "rough road" vehicles .. i.e., four wheel drive or regular pickup. For information contact the ranger district.


This is an largely unknown area of the forest containing widely dispersed Anasazi sites from the middle Anasazi period. Sites in the area number in the hundreds and date between 400 AD and 800 AD. The area has great interpretive potential but no development or excavations have been conducted and no sites have been prepared for public use. The area remains largely un-inventoried and visitation to the area is generally unsupervised.


The area contains almost 800 prehistoric Anasazi sites from many period of Anasazi use. The area is in the Dolores Ranger District and was the site of the largest archaeological excavation project ever undertaken in the US and the second largest in the World. The artifacts and information generated from that project is exhibited at the BLM Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores while the sites themselves are on US Forest Service lands. None of these sites have been developed for public use at this time. Escalante ruin, at the Anasazi Heritage Center, is stabilized and interpreted for the public. This site is a large Chacoan Outlier.


The well known Skyway, a loop drive of 236 miles, passes through some of the most interesting historic mining areas in Colorado and the west. Scattered along the roadway are the remains of 19th century mines, buildings, buck houses, tailings, tramways, and other reminders of Southwest Colorado's industrial past. The road also passes through four of the most picturesque of Colorado's Victorian mining towns; Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, and Rico. All four retain most of their original Victorian homes little changed from the late 1800s. Most were home at one time or another for such famous western characters as Simon Guggenheim, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Wyatt Earp and others. Less accessible mountain roads lead to over 500 historic mines in the area. The skyway passes through four Colorado Mining Districts ( Silverton, Telluride, Rico, and La Plata ) and provides a fascinating and unique view of the 19th century mining west.


The San Juan National Forest supported four large Civilian Conservation Corps camps and over a dozen smaller "fly camps" during the public works days of the great depression. Thousands of young men came from all over the United States to work on trails, roads, ranger stations, guard stations, soil conservationists, to fight wildfires, and otherwise help with the great American Conservation Movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these buildings remain today and a number of structures can be found throughout the forest. The Forest is currently researching and documenting the location of the CCC remains and will be erecting a series of "Historic Markers" to note their locations and history. Of special interest is the current Ranger Station in Dolores with its Spanish Rustic style or architecture; the Aspen Guard Station now available as an "Artist in Residence" site, the Dunton and Rico Guard Stations and the Lone Dome CCC Camp. Watch for beautiful old stone masonry bridges, culverts, spring developments and other remnants of the CCC on the Forest.


The San Juan has placed interpretive "Historic Markers" at a number of important historic sites on the Forest.

---The Animas City to Silverton Wagon Road. This road was used to freight supplies and as a stage road to carry people between Durango Colorado and the mining community of Silverton, Colorado between 1876 and 1881 (when the railroad was completed between the two towns). The narrow steep roadway is still visible in many locations on the forest and is currently also used as a hiking and cross country ski trail.

---The Rust Saw Mill site. This site is the location of one of the first saw mill and railroad operations in Southwest Colorado. Following construction of the mill, they owner realized that there was not sufficient water to operate it. So, they constructed a railroad to carry water to the site and lumber to the railhead in Dolores. A rather unique example of early timber operations on the forest.

---The Horse Camp site. This location was a bustling timber town on the forest in the early 1900s when the great McPhee Mill was operating. Most of the buildings are now gone but the site recalls the many lumber towns that sprung up among the large Ponderosa forests of Southwest Colorado.

---The Scotch Creek Road. This is another of the major wagon roads between early mining towns in Colorado. In this case the road left the old Animas City to Silverton road at the town of Roadwood and crossed the rugged mountains to drop into the newly constructed town of Rico. This road is today generally a jeep road, heavily used by forest visitors.

---The Beaver Corrals. This is one of many old "outfit" spring roundup sites on the forest. Prior to the formation of the Forest Service in 1905 cattlemen from Colorado and Utah would trail their cows onto the forest to a large communal corral where calves would be branded and good friends would gather. The Beaver Corrals is a "special place" to the modern day ranchers of the Dolores-Cortez area and they still gather once a year to mark the old round-ups held by their ancestors at Beaver Corrals.


Located along the Dolores River where it leaves the mountains and becomes desert, the Lone Dome Recreation Area is a premier fly fishing stream on the forest. Scattered along the river are the some half dozen historic ranch and farm buildings left from the early ranching days of the area. Historic markers at the camp ground and another locations mark the Bradfield Ranch; an historic hay derrick; and other remains. Many of the old houses, barns, and one Forest Service Guard Station are largely unprotected, and many have little interpretation at present. The Forest hopes in the future to make them available to the public through interpretive programs and historic restoration.


One of the most famous historic railroads in the United States runs through the San Juan National Forest from Durango to Silverton. The train, a part of the old Denver and Rio Grande railway system is a spectacular ride through some of the most scenic parts of the forest and along the Weminuche Wilderness area. The trails utilizes original engines, cars, and the original 19th century depot to draw over 500,000 travelers today. The D & SNG is one of the major historic and scenic attractions in Colorado.

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Anderson Lodge is one of several properties that belonged to Col. A.A. Anderson who served as the first Special Superintendent of the Yellowstone Forest Reserve. The lodge was an elaborate split-story, serving as a rustic art studio for Anderson and possibly as an administrative site during his tenure as superintendent. It is presently being restored.


Mummy Cave along the Cody-Yellowstone highway is considered one of the most complete archaeological records of prehistoric cultures in the Northern Great Plains. Excavations by the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society and others in the 1960's yielded information from over 35 cultural layers. Notable among the finds was a mummified male, buried some 1300 years ago.


The Lookingbill site in the southern part of the Shoshone may prove to be of more importance than Mummy Cave in providing important and complete information on cultural sequences. Much of the work is still being analyzed and is not yet available. The dates of some material are believed to go back almost 12,000 years. Unfortunately this site has been plagued by vandals and looters who do not realize the damage their activities have done to this important site.


Many Americans are familiar with the story of the brave flight of the Nez Perce people during 1877. In an attempt to escape increasing pressures from settlers and the government, a large number of Indians, led by Chief Joseph, made a gallant run for Canada and freedom, outmaneuvering the military repeatedly until surrounded and forced to surrender only 50 miles from the Canadian border. Beginning in Idaho, the Trail stretches and twists through Montana and Wyoming. One section passes through the Shoshone National Forest, and goes through Yellowstone Park over several passes and finally down the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River.


While not the first ranger station (though often mistakenly identified as such), Wapiti Ranger Station has the distinction of being the first built with federally allocated funds. Just off the Cody-Yellowstone Highway, the dwelling is a single-story log construction, humble in appearance but dating to Forest Service early history. It still serves as an administrative site for the Shoshone National Forest and is manned year-round. There is a formal wayside display. It was here in 1991 during the Centennial of the National Forest System that a letter from President George Bush was read, rededicating the National Forests to the American People.


Though not as well known as Virginia City or other towns associated with the mining frenzy of the 1800s, Kirwin is not without its own colorful history. Gold, lead, and copper ore were identified here in the 1880s, but the depressed economy of the time hindered development until 1902. The town grew to a reported population of 400 before a disastrous avalanche in 1907 killed four people and destroyed part of the town and mines. Many people left, fearing repeats of the disaster. Despite continuing attempts over time to exploit the mineral wealth, the area held more promise than reality. Today only deserted buildings and mining equipment remain of the hopes that drew people to Kirwin.

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Two historic cabins, the Elwood Cabin and the Brewery Creek Guard Station, have been rehabilitated and are being made available to the public for overnight stays.

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The remains of this 56-mile long trail can be seen from Meeker to Dotsero. The highest point is 11,000 feet above sea level. Many sites along the trail are of spiritual and religious significance to the Ute Indians, as well as many places of significance to the settlement of the West.

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