South Park Colorado is one of three parks in the central part of the state and the largest. North and Middle Park are the other two.
South Park is a large alpine basin carved out of the volcanic activity of the area millions of years ago along the now extinct Thirty Nine Mile volcano field.
The South Park basin or valley, is around 10,000 feet in elevation and stretches some 1,000 square miles around the South Platte River in Park County.
The valley was home to the Ute Indians long before the white settlers came to the area. Like most of the mountains in the state, the Utes hunted and lived off the land.
In 1859, the Colorado gold rush exploded across the state and South Park was not exempt from miners digging for their fortune.
The area was
included in the Pikes Peak Gold Rush because of its proximity to those
Placer gold was found along the west side of the park. The excess gravel ridges seen today on the east side are the result of gold dredging.
A small advantage of gold mining in the park showed evidence of uranium in the sandstone. A very minor find, this too was taken from the area.
Few towns that sprouted up during the gold rush survived. Fairplay is the largest town in the park. It was considered a tamer place to live than Taryall, down the road a piece.
For decades, Fairplay was the gold and later, silver center of the park. The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad connected the town to Denver and points east in 1879.
The park was and still is, full of wildlife any time of the year. Elk and mule deer can be seen by the hundreds in the valley as you come down out of the mountains from the east or west.
South Park City, just outside of Fairplay, is a recreation of the gold rush days of 1859, with authentic equipment and a history museum.
South Park is a great place to see what the old west was like in the early days of Colorado history. It is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in the U.S. To learn more, the South Park Chamber of Commerce has something for everyone.
My husband and I visit South Park often. That is the first place we take family and friends visiting us to get a taste of the gold rush days.