Posts Tagged 'Trails of Northern Colorado'

Trails Thursday: Museo de las Tres Colonias

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Sugar beet workers, circa 1926. Photo from the Fort Collins Local History Archive

It’s almost sugar beet harvesting time, and if you’re not a long-time resident of Fort Collins (and I mean really long!) or a local history buff, you may have no idea how big a beet can be in the life of a town. Curious? Explore the Museo de las Tres Colonias, one of the stops on the Trails of Northern Colorado cultural heritage driving tour.

The sugar beet is at the heart of a story that helped bring two major ethno-cultural groups to Fort Collins: Germans from Russia (also sometimes known as the Volga Germans), and Hispanics. Both groups were brought here in the early decades of the 20th century to work in the sugar beet fields and processing plants owned by the Great Western Sugar Company, and both groups — first the Germans from Russia and then the Hispanics — lived in the small neighborhoods near the Great Western Plant that we know today as Andersonville, Alta Vista, and Buckingham: the tres colonias.

The Hispanic heritage and stories of these neighborhoods, and the part they played in the growth of Fort Collins, is preserved at the Museo de las Tres Colonias. The Museo is open on the 3rd Saturday of each month, from 12:30 to 3:00, and is located at 425 10th St.


Trails Thursday: Explore Old Town’s pocket park

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Gustav Swanson Natural Area, early spring

In this week’s exploration of our Trails of Northern Colorado natural and cultural heritage tour website, I thought we’d take a look at a wonderful little natural area that’s tucked away practically right under our noses in Old Town, Fort Collins: the Gustav Swanson Natural Area.

I’ve lived in Fort Collins for almost 25 years, and worked in Old Town for many of those years, but until I worked on the Trails project I had never heard of the Gustav Swanson Natural Area. Just over the Poudre River bridge on Linden Street, this sweet little park winds through the cottonwoods along the river and is a great place to bird watch or just relax in the shade. If you visit early in the morning, you may even see deer.

The area originally became a park in 1887, then went through several changes of fortune before becoming one of the City of Fort Collins’ natural areas in 1988. The area’s name was chosen to honor Gustav Swanson, a pioneering conservationist and head of the Fishery and Wildlife Department at Colorado State University.

So if you’re craving a break from your urban existence, a beautiful little bit of nature is waiting for you on the north edge of Old Town. Go explore!

You can also find more information about the Gustav Swanson Natural Area on the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas website.

Trails Thursday: Meet the Plaster King

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 (photo by Scott Bacon)

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.”

Alfred Wild (photo courtesy of the Fort Collins Local History Archive)

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.

“Trails of Northern Colorado” website launches

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Now that summer is here, it’s time to get serious about getting out and seeing some sights. If you live in northern Colorado, or are planning on visiting us, we’re excited to announce a new Google Maps-based driving tour that will take you to some of the truly outstanding places in our area.

The Trails of Northern Colorado” is a website created by the Museum as part of a U.S. Park Service Preserve America grant. Literally over 12,000 years in the making, the website offers three different driving tours of the distinctive regions of northern Colorado — the foothills, the river, and the plains. Each tour consists of multiple stops, each with its own unique cultural and natural history story to tell. Taken together, the tour reveals many stories and hidden gems that even long-time residents may not be aware of.

I don’t want to give too much more away, other than to say “Go explore!” We really hope you’ll enjoy this great new resource.

You can read more about the project on the Museum’s website.

March 2023

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