Just Released!

A history of Chaffee County

A new era for the Upper Arkansas

Over the past 25 years, few regions of Colorado witnessed the degree of change seen in the Upper Arkansas Valley communities of Salida, Buena Vista and Poncha Springs in Chaffee County.
As communities and institutions celebrated centennials in 1980, the region looked forward optimistically to a positive and bright future.
But then disaster struck. The heavy industries which sustained the valley for more than a century – mining and railroads – virtually disappeared. Within a seven year span some 1,000 primary jobs in a county with only 13,000 residents at the time evaporated into the valley’s thin air.

The newly released book, Currents of Change, chronicles the peaks and valleys, the major players and events that affected the region from 1980 through 2005.

Some chapter samples:
Monarch Ski Area
Fourmile and Brown's Canyon
The Arts

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*Through 25 years of ownership changes, bad snow years and low cash flow, Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area has weathered just about every imaginable storm thrown its way.
Surviving bankruptcy, multiple lawsuits against owners and/or the area, Monarch remains a vital part of the Chaffee County economy.
Since 1980 the ski area, like the evolution of snow riding itself, has been a wave of changes.

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*Outdoor recreation in Chaffee County was considerably different in 1980 than it is in 2005. The early 1980s marked the beginning of America’s fascination with motorized off-highway travel; ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, SUVs and even mountain bikes had barely been invented.
A remarkable 84 percent of Chaffee County consists of public lands. These lands have been used recreationally for 150 years, the first 125 mostly by people passing through on trains, on horseback and by foot. These users left modest signs of their passing, but added to the growing network of the tracks of cattle grazers, miners and timbermen.

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*Thunder grumbled above the roar of five Southern Pacific diesel locomotives laboring northwest from Salida with a consist of about 100 cars Aug. 23, 1997.
It was followed by about 75 diehard railfan photographers who wanted to preserve the history-making event. It was the last scheduled freight run from Pueblo to Dotsero over the historic Denver and Rio Grande Tennessee Pass route pioneered more than a century earlier.
Locomotives were Nos. 262 and 219 at the head of the consist while Nos. 108, 241 and 9607 assisted in the center. The last car, more fitting for the occasion than the Southern Pacific locomotives, was Denver and Rio Grande Western high-side gondola No. 19765.

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*In the past 25 years, Salida has seen the arts blossom.
Though it’s been a rocky road, the tenacity of the artists, gallery owners and residents has kept the arts front and center of the cultural and economic vitality of the community.
In 1980, there was only one gallery in town – Chris Byars’ First Street Studio, 133 E. First St. – which is still in operation although, as has always been the case, without set hours and taking no commission from artists shown there.

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