History & Heritage
history & heritage
Rio Grande County Museum

Rio Grande County Museum  Located in Del Norte, which is also the county seat, the museum is open year round. Started in 1961 the museum moved to its current location on Oak Street in 1987 where it now features a gallery of contemporary as well as historic exhibits. Including Native American rock art, History on Hispanic settlers, horno baking, fur trappers, the search for land, freedom, gold and silver. Other museums in the area include: Transportation of the West Museum, in Monte Vista, Home Lake Veterans Center Museum

Col. Albert Pfeiffer’s Grave Freemont’s Camp

Pfeiffer’s Grave and Freemont’s Camp  Colonel Pfeiffer was a tough but understanding man during a time when no white man was trusted by Native Americans, however through his kind heart he was taken into their community and buried with honor. Freemont’s Camp is the site of an ill-fated group of settlers caught by snowstorms and stranded in the San Juan Mountains.  Freemont Camp Trail #885

Summitville Historic Gold Mine Site Near South Fork CO

Historic Summitville Gold Mines  Located 11,000ft above sea level Summitville has had a rough 100-year history, which has given forth more than 7.5 million dollars, worth of gold silver lead and copper. During its hay days this town and mine had six processing mills, stores, saloons, boarding houses, homes, a school and slaughter house. However, today the site is home to a multi-million dollar cleanup; resulting from high levels of cyanide and arsenic in the soil, which was once used to extract the gold. Due to health dangers there is no direct access to the site, but visitors can still see the remnants of the mine and the buildings. Makes a great driving tour through the mountains. More on Summitville 

Summitville Historic Gold Mine Site Near South Fork CO

Beautiful scenery and historic markers await travelers along the Bachelor Loop route north of Creede. The loop is one of the many ways historic Creede acknowledges and embraces its past as a mining town and the continuation of the mining industry in town.

Maps are available around Creede and are made by the Creede/Mineral County Chamber of Commerce to help people spot important and interesting sites along the 17 mile drive around Bachelor Loop. Another map available from the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee shows where work has been completed along the loop to help cleanup from mining and milling activities.

Along the route visitors will see remnants of historic boom towns that sprang up in the 1890s to accommodate the influx of miners and often their families. The first stop along the tour is at the West Willow/East Willow Creek Junction that marks the original town of Creede that was established at the beginning of the boom. More on Bachelor Loop Mine Camp Driving Tour

Silver Thread Scenic Byway

Silver Thread Scenic Byway  The Silver Thread Scenic Byway is 75 miles of breathtaking scenery, history, & wildlife viewing. The Byway ribbons over the Continental Divide through the quaint & historic communities of South Fork, Creede, and Lake City. A mile post guide book of the Byway and its points of interest are available along the route. Don’t miss the turn for North Clear Creek Falls. It is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Colorado!.

Natural Arch near Del Norte Colorado

Natural Arch, Wagon Trails, and Elephant Rocks  The Natural Arch was formed by the action of wind, rain and weather on a volcanic dome. The Elephant Rocks are part of the Fish Canyon tuff; volcanic ash welded together over time and has been determined to be at least 28.8 million years old. While the origin of the Wagon tracks is still greatly debated it is believed that these tracks were cut into the soft volcanic tuff by the action of Conestoga wagon wheels. More Info

Natural Arch near Del Norte Colorado

Walk the same path where courageous Hispano settlers journeyed into Southern Colorado from New Mexico to live their Catholic faith at the foot of the La Garita Mountains.

The SAN JUAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL CENTER is a unique 10-acre site that offers a historical view of cultural traditions and a Catholic way of life brought from old Spain by the first Hispano settlers who traveled to the Spanish northern frontier from New Mexico.

As a place of panoramic beauty, it is located in the northern portion of the San Luis Valley, protected by the rugged San Juan Mountain Range to the west and looks across the vast Valley floor towards the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east.  More Information & Directions

Old Spanish Trail Marker Near Del Norte CO Historic Site

Old Spanish Trail  This trail served as a trade route linking Sante Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA used by fur, mule, and horse traders including Native Americans and Spanish colonization’s in the 1500’s. After the Mexican war the trail was used less and less in favor of easier routes, to the north and south. More than 100 years after traffic along the trail has ended support for this route as a national historic trail began in 1990. In December 2002 President George W. Bush signed S.R. 1926, designating the Old Spanish Trails America’s 15th National Historic Trail.

Penitente Canyon Rock Climbing

Penitente Canyon “Rock Climbing”  Penitente Canyon served as a place of worship for a small sect of the Catholic Church known as Los Hermanos Penitente. In some areas you can see historic/religious painting left behind on the rocks. Originally named for its seclusion over recent years this area has emerged as one of the state’s premier sport climbing areas. The Canyon and Rock Garden has a variety of bolted climbing routes with a difficulty level of 5.8 to 5.13. This area also includes Shaw Springs with 30 technical routes ranging in difficulty from 5.1 to 5.13.  Also Penitente Canyon is home to Mountain Biking, Hiking and a Small Camping Area.

Historic Stone Quarry Near Del Norte CO Del Norte Trails System

Stone Quarry  Once a flourishing business in the valley this quarry provided much needed stone for a variety of historic buildings including the county court house. Visitors and still access this site which lies east of Del Norte and not only find 8 foot slabs of rock still strewn on the ground, but climb to the top of the site for a picturesque view of the San Luis Valley.

Rio Grande County Museum

Cradled between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains at the headwaters of the Rio Grande, lies the San Luis Valley. This vastness, coupled with a diversity of geologic and geographic features ranging from lush river bottoms to an inland ocean of sand to craggy summits reaching elevations over 14,000 feet, has enticed and enthralled people since the times of Ice Age hunters.

A cavalcade of characters, some famous, some infamous and some downright notorious, have stepped across this landscape. Diego de Vargas, Juan Bautista de Anza, Zebulon Pike, John C. Frèmont, Kit Carson, John Gunnison, Phil Sheridan, Tom Tobin, Bat Masterson, Soapy Smith, Bob Ford, Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Chipeta and Ouray, Otto Mears, Ulysses S. Grant, Alfred/Alferd Packer—the names associated with San Luis Valley history read like a western epic.

6 Epic Heritage Tours exploring, Natural Wonders, In the Steps of Pioneers, Ring of Gold, Life in a High Desert Valley, The Creative Spirit and More.  More Information on Six Historic Journeys thru the Cradle of Colorado.