Once a wild western cornerstone in the heyday of Colorado high country railroads, today the Texas Creek area is a cornerstone for classic Colorado outdoor recreation along the lower Arkansas River mountain corridor.
Texas Creek Recreation Area is a popular area for offroading, located just a few miles east of Cotopaxi on U.S. Highway 50. The area is named after the unincorporated settlement of Texas Creek, which is centered on the intersection of Fremont County Road 27 into the Bureau of Land Management recreation area, north, and U.S. Highway 50. The area of Texas Creek Recreation Area was historically used by the Ute Native Americans, before European exploration and settlement in the late 19th century.
Texas Creek Recreation Area is basically a network of offroad trails, some accessible only by ATVs, some accessible by both ATVs and high-clearance vehicles. See the BLM map:
Texas Creek: A Tale of the Wild West
Plot twist: it’s not actually a “tale” because it actually happened. The Texas Creek area was relatively untouched by European explorers until the 1800s, and in 1880 the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built a station at what’s now known as the small community of Texas Creek. The first settlement was known as “Ford”, which was not much more than a stagecoach stop for the railroad. There was also a small store, saloon, and boarding house. Ranchers who settled in the area raised cattle, and a small schoolhouse was opened for children living in the area. To this day, ranchers still maintain herds of cattle in the Texas Creek area.
Texas Creek got its name from two cattlemen who were traveling through the area destined for Leadville, bringing a herd of longhorn Texas steers to sell for meat. They camped in the area next to a creek, and in the night the cattle were startled by a mountain lion, scattered, some never to be retrieved. After this ordeal, they named the creek Texas Creek.
Note: this is not related to the commonly known Clear Creek in Clear Creek County, which is a tributary of the South Platte River, and flows through Golden, CO.
A Fisherman’s Oasis, Accessible Year-Round
Clear Creek Reservoir is directly off U.S. 24, on Chaffee County Road 390. In the winter months, ice-fishing is a popular activity on the reservoir. In the summer months, the reservoir is open to boats, and there are numerous camping areas close to the reservoir. There is a restroom at the main boat dock parking area, but no camping is allowed here. Numerous pull-offs exist beyond the first parking area, that provide additional access to the reservoir shore.
Vicksburg is off the beaten path. There aren’t any fancy signs pointing travelers in the direction of the once 700-resident strong mining settlement. At its peak, there were some 40 buildings, including a post office, school, blacksmith, a general store, two hotels, two billiard halls, an assay office, a livery stable, and a handful of saloons. There was a daily stagecoach transporting people to and from Granite and beyond. In current times, Vicksburg is effectively a ghost town, even through there are several cabins which remain seasonally occupied by residents who are descendants of some of the original settlers.
Vicksburg is on the National Register of Historic Sites. A small museum facility is maintained by the Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society, with a couple preserved buildings and old equipment which was used in the heyday of the small settlement. The museum is only staffed by volunteers in the warm months, but as early as April, it was accessible.