Historic Cimarron

Loading lambs on railway. Photo by Russell Lee.
Loading lambs on railway in Cimarron.

Photo by Russell Lee, Courtesy Library of Congress

As the mining boom declined, ranching took on greater significance in Cimarron history. Both sheep and cattle were run in the open lands of the Cimarron Valley and surrounding hills. Cimarron became a major livestock shipping center, with corrals covering over 7500 square feet adjacent to the railroad siding. Local ranchers would typically drive their stock to Cimarron and timed their arrival to allow immediate loading of animals; there were no feeding facilities at the corrals here. Shipment of livestock was concentrated in the spring and fall, with animals being moved either to market (usually Kansas City), a winter range in the desert areas around Grand Junction, Colorado, or into Utah.

As technology quickly changed, the narrow gauge railroad became a thing of the past. Improved highways and large trucks gradually replaced the railroad, and the corrals and rail yards of Cimarron grew empty. In 1949, a scenic excursion train ran from Gunnison to Cimarron. This was the last train to travel the tracks through the Black Canyon, and shortly thereafter the rails, ties, and corrals were removed. The depot, roundhouse, saloons, ice plant, and individual homes have also disappeared from the old Cimarron townsite.

Today, the National Park Service maintains a visitor center, campground and picnic area where the railroad town of Cimarron once existed. An outdoor exhibit with loading corrals and stock cars helps visitors understand the importance of the railroad history to Cimarron's ranching community and the entire western slope.

Cimarron Town Map, 1919 and Today » (95k pdf)

Cimarron Railroad Station. Photo by Russell Lee
Cimarron Railroad Station

Photo by Russell Lee, courtesy Library of Congress

When the first train arrived, the passengers were greeted by a host of tents and a single log cabin. Many believed that as the railroad continued on west, Cimarron would disappear. But by the end of 1882, it was recognized that getting trains over the steep Cerro Summit grade would require helper engines. Cimarron developed into a real railroad town, complete with a roundhouse and station facilities.

The original purpose of this railroad was to provide a link for shipment of ore from the mines in the San Juan mountains. However, scenic excursions also ran through Cimarron in the latter part of the 19th and into the 20th centuries. A subsidiary of the D&RG, the "Rio Grande Hotel Company", established the "Black Canyon Hotel and Eating House" in Cimarron. Railroad passengers came to eagerly anticipate the stop in this community known for its hospitality. Its population fluctuated drastically during this time, at times soaring to 250 or dwindling to 25.

Moving lambs to corrals. Photo by Russell Lee
Moving lambs to corrals.

Photo by Russell Lee, courtesy Library of Congress

Cimarron Town Map, 1919 and Today » (95k pdf)

Last updated: August 2, 2023

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Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
(GPS/physical address = 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO)

Gunnison, CO 81230



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