by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator
Last month, the Museum launched our “Trails of Northern Colorado” website. The Trails website is a cultural and natural history driving tour of northern Colorado which links many of our favorite places and stories into a fun adventure, perfect for summer exploration. Many of the locations take you to our various and wonderful natural areas and open spaces, while others are more urban. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to highlight some of the stops on the tour; we hope you’ll go out and experience the rest!
Devil’s Backbone Open Space is the southern-most stop on Tour 1 of the Trails of Northern Colorado, which covers the foothills region. Located a few miles west of Loveland, the dominant natural feature of this open space is a hogback ridge of hard Dakota sandstone. Just to the south is the Big Thompson River, and nestled in a valley to the west are stone quarries, beautiful agricultural land, and some really interesting historical stories. One of those stories involves Alfred Wild, also known as “Colorado’s Pioneer Hop Grower and Plaster King.”
In the late 1880s while digging an irrigation ditch on his land in this valley, Wild discovered a thick vein of high-quality gypsum. Being an entrepreneurial sort of fellow, he experimented with some small-scale methods of turning the gypsum into plaster. One thing led to another, including a partnership with the U.S. Gypsum Corporation, and Wild’s Buckhorn Mill operated until 1965.
Alfred Wild also established a successful orchard, grew hops which he sold to the country’s western breweries, and operated a brick kiln. And there’s even more to his story … so go explore, and add Devil’s Backbone Open Space to your list of “yep, I’ve done that!” as you travel the Trails of Northern Colorado.