HISTORY OF CREEDE
Creede, CO is a small town located along the Rio Grande River in the San Juan Mountains.
The land CRT stands on was once the summer home of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Jicarilla Apache, and Pueblo peoples who came to hunt, fish, trade, and seek the medicinal benefits of local hot springs. After the discovery of gold in the San Juan Mountains, Native peoples were forcibly removed by local troops to reservations in the Four Corners region.
European settlers began farming the Upper Rio Grande Valley in the 1840s and prospectors and other travelers, lured by the wealth of the San Juan’s mineral fields, soon followed. By the mid-1870s, tourist and outdoor activities also began to thrive along the Rio Grande, aided by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad with the opening of the Wagon Wheel Gap Depot in 1883.
In 1890, the Upper Rio Grande Valley’s destiny changed dramatically with the discovery of a high-grade silver vein on Willow Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande. The rush was on! The sparsely populated area boomed to a population of 10,000 with slab cities and tent towns appearing almost overnight. By 1892 over a million dollars in silver had been shipped out of town; Creede made Colorado a “boom” state once more. Along with the prospectors and miners came gamblers, saloonkeepers, ladies of the evening and Old West legends like Bob Ford, Soapy Smith, and Bat Masterson.
Mining communities were thriving. Eventually, prospectors and families alike abandoned makeshift camps and moved to the little town at the mouth of Willow Creek Canyon with its brick stores and electric streetlights now known as Creede.
Hard rock mining continued as the dominant economic factor in Creede for nearly a century. In 1985, when the price of silver dropped again, the last mine, the Homestake, closed permanently. Today Mineral County is returning to its tourism roots. And Creede, the little mining camp that refused to die, shares not only its beautiful natural setting, but also its colorful heritage with thousands of visitors every year.