Texas Creek Recreation Area

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:

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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.

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Clear Creek Reservoir, Chaffee County

Surrounded by Colorado mining country, this reservoir offers fishing opportunities year-round in the beautiful Sawatch Range.

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.

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The boat dock is closed in the winter because apparently it’s hard to bring a boat on solid ice.

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Twin Lakes, Colorado

Just south of Leadville, the historic Twin Lakes area offers plenty of camping, hiking, and fishing in the majestic setting of the Colorado Sawatch mountain range.

First County Seat of the 17 Original Counties of Colorado

What is now known as Twin Lakes was once the site of Lake County’s first county seat, Dayton. Lake County was one of Colorado’s original 17 counties, established by the Colorado Legislature in 1861. Twin Lakes has been a tourist attraction since as early as the 1870s, when it became an important stop along the route to the gold and silver mines of Aspen. The Interlaken Hotel, located on the south side of Twin Lakes, was founded in 1879 and had some of the best amenities available of the time.

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Wide panorama of the Twin Lakes area from the hills just north of Twin Lakes. Far right is the Mount Elbert Forebay reservoir, an excellent reservoir for fishing.

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Salt Cabin Park

Just a lowly forest road, meandering its way through the woods in northern Pingree Park. Good dispersed camping and views of White Pine Mountain.

Salt Cabin Park Rd. is a nice little route through northern Pingree Park just south of the Poudre River. It is a loop which starts and ends along Crown Point Rd. (Forest Road 139). Just a lowly forest road, meandering its way up a hill then back down. There are some nice dispersed campsites, and excellent views of West White Pine Mountain. The Stormy Peaks are visible, as well as Crown Point.

 

Looking southeast down the valley from the top of the ridge.
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Arkansas River Valley

The whole area offers am endless amount of dispersed campsites, offroad routes, day use areas, and river access. Buena Vista and Salida provide the valley with the oasis of civilization.

The vast expanse that is the Arkansas River Valley is also notably cozy. On the south end, you have the town of Salida. In the middle, you have Buena Vista. At Buena Vista, highway 24 splits northbound towards Leadville, Minturn and I-70, while U.S. 285 heads south to Salida, Alamosa, and ultimately through New Mexico and Texas. North of Buena Vista, U.S. 24 and the valley climbs in elevation towards Leadville.

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Long Draw

If you like getting high and wild, then Long Draw is the place for you. You’re in deep at Long Draw Reservoir, surrounded by high 12,000ft peaks and rugged, wild mountain valleys accented by wildflowers and rolling meadows.

If you like getting high and wild, then Long Draw is the place for you. You’re in deep at Long Draw Reservoir, surrounded by high 12,000ft peaks and rugged, wild mountain valleys accented by wildflowers and rolling meadows. Long Draw Reservoir is close to the end of Long Draw Rd. At the end of Long Draw Rd is the trailhead for La Poudre Pass, a hiking trail that takes you over the continental divide and ends in Rocky Mountain National Park. From this trail you can also access the ghost town sites of Lulu City, once 40 buildings strong, and home to several hundred residents and a post office, and nearby Dutchtown, the outcast town founded by those cast out of Lulu City.

Long Draw Rd snaking through the high mountain valley. Picture date: November 2016.
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The Laramie River Valley

The area offers plenty of recreational opportunities, and it’s a blast to go screw around out here on the weekends.

The descent into the mighty Laramie River Valley conjures images of the first explorers descending upon the untamed, wild Rocky Mountain valleys. Via Deadman Road (County Road 86), the descent is relatively sudden, and soon after several switchbacks backdropped by the towering Medicine Bows, a great expanse of valley is revealed through the trees. This is an area seen by few. Certainly, the experience is reminiscent of the descent from Kenosha Pass into South Park on U.S. 285, except several orders of magnitude less trafficked.

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The rugged Medicine Bow range is visible in the distance
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Pingree Park

Regardless of the season, Pingree Park is a recreational playground which offers great access to the National Forest and endless opportunities for recreation.

Pingree Park Road, or County Road 63E, is a well-maintained gravel road which travels due south from Highway 14 to the northern flank of the Mummy Range. The valley in which the road follows was originally explored by the Arapaho, Mountain Ute, and Cheyenne Native Americans. Development in the valley took place in the mid-1860s, when George Pingree traveled up the South Fork of the Poudre River in search of trees to log for railroad ties for the transcontinental railroad. In 1868, Pingree established a tie camp in the valley now known as Pingree Park. The ties were floated down the Poudre River to Laporte, where they were then taken via wagon to Tie Siding, Wyoming. In the fall of 1870, the demand for railroad ties had been filled and Pingree’s camp closed. Today, the valley offers an abundance of recreational activities, and is the site of Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus.

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