One of Chaffee County’s Historic Resources
By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board
“Although farming preceded ranching in Colorado and has long since surpassed it in importance, the great cattle ranches of the seventies and eighties first gave agriculture any considerable weight in the State’s economy,” according Colorado, A Guide to the Highest State by Federal Writers’ Project, first published in 1941. This refers to the 1870s and 1880s.
In 1858 the idea of raising livestock in Colorado began when a prospector discovered his loose oxen could survive on the grassy plains where the city of Denver now stands. The oxen not only survived on the grasses but put weight on doing so. With this discovery, Texas cattle were driven northward to the lower Arkansas River Valley and into other sections of the state. The advance of the railroads soon opened new grazing land in the mountain parks and on the Western Slope.