Hardcore residents build a town

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Photo courtesy John M. Motter During Pagosa Country’s pioneer days, freight was delivered in wagons crossing Elwood Pass at the headwaters of the East Fork of the San Juan River. Three of those wagons on the pass are shown in this photo. The state of Colorado abandoned that route after the flood of 1911 wiped out much of the road.
Photo courtesy John M. Motter
During Pagosa Country’s pioneer days, freight was delivered in wagons crossing Elwood Pass at the headwaters of the East Fork of the San Juan River. Three of those wagons on the pass are shown in this photo. The state of Colorado abandoned that route after the flood of 1911 wiped out much of the road.

When Pagosa Springs started in 1877/1878, the first settlers based their economic hopes on the expectations of being home to Fort Lewis and the Southern Ute Reservation, nearby gold, silver and copper mines, through railroad service, and, of course, tourism based on health-seeker patronage of “the world’s largest and hottest mineral springs.”

By 1880, those settlers knew there would be no fort or Ute Reservation headquarters and no through railroad. So far, no significant nearby gold, silver or copper ores had been discovered. Because the railroad to Durango bypassed Pagosa Springs some 40 miles to the south in New Mexico territory, visiting the hot springs meant a bumpy, 40-mile stage coach ride — not an enticing prospect for invalids planning to dip in the “healing waters.”

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