The towns of the Royal Gorge Region are rich in history. To learn more about their historical significance, take a self-guided tour and discover something new!
Charming, historic downtown Cañon City offers blocks of beautiful architecture and fascinating stories. This three-hour walking tour starts at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility and heads north up Main Street, where it ends at 8th Street. The following are just a few of the tour’s highlights:
- The Cañon City Armory—the longest continuously used armory in Colorado
Murray’s Saloon—an 1860s Italianate-style building, whose second floor served as the official meeting place for local government leaders
- The Peabody House—once the center of social and political life in Cañon City
- The St. Cloud Hotel—originally built in Silver Cliff but dismantled and moved to Cañon City where it boasted an elevator, a bar, and electric lighting
Take a stroll down Main Street Florence where many historic buildings have remained untouched for decades and over a dozen antique shops have helped Florence earn the title, “Antique Capital of Colorado.” The following are highlights from the self-guided tour:
- The Fremont Hotel—a state-of-the-art luxury hotel built in 1897
- The Adobe Post Office—one of the first buildings to be constructed after the town was platted by James McCandles in 1872
- The Knights of Pythias Building—erected in 1889, this was the first brick building on Main Street and incorporated several architectural elements that would become common for the city’s 19th-century commercial buildings
Howard is located west of Cañon City in a rich valley and along the beautiful Arkansas River. This walking tour begins at Howard Hall and ends at a parsonage built in 1920. Highlights of the tour include:
- Howard’s first church—built in 1898
- The Howard Rail Depot—where passenger fares once ranged from two to five cents per mile and mail sacks hung on poles by the tracks, ready for pickup.
- Beehive Charcoal Kiln—constructed in 1890 and used to burn pinon wood just long enough to convert it to charcoal.
Ride to the top of a high razorback ridge overlooking Cañon City. With cliffs on each side of the road, the drive can be hair-raising. Stop to read interpretive signs or view dinosaur tracks embedded in the cliff face. Highlights of the drive include:
- Skyline Drive Gateway—built in 1932, it consists of a stone from every state in the union.
- Dinosaur Trackway—where tracks of a 30-foot long, six-ton armored Ankylosaurs are visible in the sandstone.
Ride along 50 miles of Highway 50 from Cañon City to Salida where magnificent views and incredible geology await. The drive also passes some significant historical locations, as this route was once served mining camps along the Arkansas River. Highlights of the drive include:
- DeRemer Forts – this series of forts built by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad held off the Santa Fe Railroad in the battle to build a railroad west along the Arkansas River
- Cotopaxi – Cotopaxi was settled by residents of questionable character in 1870. 70 Jewish Colonists escaped Tsarist Russia and settle in Cotopaxi in 1881.
- Wellsville – Wellsville was once a pleasure resort where guests came to enjoy mineral hot springs.
People came to the Royal Gorge Region in waves during the gold rush, the Civil War, and the silver, coal, oil, and railroad booms. Many of these people are buried in cemeteries dating back to 1865. Highlights of the Fremont Cemetery tour include:
- Howard Cemetary – This cemetery lies on gently sloped land with pinion covered hills to the east and north.
- Cotopaxi Cemetary – With 244 marked graves dating back to 1882, this cemetery is the final resting place for horsemen, cowboys, railroad men, transients, and more.
- New Hope Church and Cemetery – Of the 620 known burials in this cemetery, 80 are veterans who served in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War.
The post-Civil War economic growth and industrialization of Colorado and Fremont County, driven by the advance of railroads, led to the rapid development of the Cañon City Coal Field. The Coal Camps where miners lived were owned and operated by the coal mining companies, such as Chandler and Radiant.
While the coal mines are now closed, this Fremont County Heritage Guide is intended to preserve the memory of this important economic era. It is dedicated to the miners and their families, many who immigrated to the United States and established deep roots and a lasting legacy in Fremont County.