Cimarron, Colorado, is located 20 miles east of Montrose on U.S. Highway 50. Today it is a small, quiet community providing visitor access to Morrow Point Dam, fishing along Cimarron Creek, and boating on Crystal Reservoir. It can also provide a glimpse into our past.
EARLY AREA HISTORY
As valuable mineral deposits were discovered on Colorado's western slope, the need for better transportation routes was recognized. One of the most famous road builders of his day was Otto Mears, known as the "Pathfinder of the San Juans". Mears constructed the Lake Fork and Ouray Toll Road. A branch of this road ran from the confluence of Cimarron Creek and the Little Cimarron River to a local cattle outfit, Cline's Ranch. Captain W. M. Cline owned about 480 acres in the vicinity of what was to become Cimarron. A friend of Chief Ouray of the Utes, Cline settled here in the 1870s, raising grain and cattle. Cline was joined in the livestock business by two other firms whose herd totalled approximately 5400 head of cattle, and this area eventually became popular for sheep-raising as well.
ENTER, THE RAILROAD
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.
A LIVESTOCK SHIPPING HUB
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)
Last updated: August 2, 2023