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Area History


The Royal Gorge dates back at least three million years and it is considered to be one of the most unique canyons on earth. Unlike the Grand Canyon, the Royal Gorge is made up of several canyons, giving it a very unique shape. At some points, it is quite shallow, while at others, it plunges down 1,200 feet. This is truly one of nature’s most incredible spectacles. The canyon was created through erosion into the granite of Fremont Peak. At the very bottom of the canyon you’ll find the Arkansas River, which is a favorite destination for canoeing and river rafting.

While little is known about the original inhabitants, many historians have found evidence of Paleolithic cultures in this area. The Utes are believed to be the most recent native peoples that settled in this area. They would use the gorge as their winter hunting lands, due to the temperate climate as well as the natural protection from the wind. As Europeans began settling this area of Colorado, towns began to spring up and settlements were formed. The new settlers recognized the benefits of the gorge and many ended up staying there for the same reasons as the Ute inhabitants.

Over the years, many expeditions traveled through this area, but none were as famous as the Pike expedition, which is believed to have stopped here in 1806. Fur trappers were the first inhabitants as well as soldiers that were sent to guard the outposts for the settlers. Soon, more people began arriving as the push west went on the United States. The gold rush and silver rush were responsible for many settlers choosing this region and the area is home to many famous mines.

In 1877, lead was discovered, and the town of Leadville quickly sprang up. As more people settled, the push to bring the railroad in was harder than ever. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe quickly built tracks through the area and were later joined by several other railroads. This meant that citizens could now have access to and from the Royal Gorge and the population began steadily increasing. By the 1890’s, the rail became part of the Transcontinental Railroad and numerous trains would go through the area every single day.

In 1929, Canyon City authorized the construction of the now famous Royal Gorge Bridge. This is now a popular tourist destination and you can still ride on the railroad that crosses the gorge. The current century has seen this area become a favorite destination of outdoor enthusiasts. From rock climbing to hiking and fishing, thousands of people travel here from all over the world to experience all that Canyon City has to offer. The area hosts the extreme sports Go Fast Games each year, which has become a favorite event for extreme sports enthusiasts. The cities and towns built around the Royal Gorge continue to prosper and just like in the old days, the railroad still plays as important part in their daily lives.