Ranching and the great outdoors have been just as much a part of Colorado’s history as the Rocky Mountains themselves. Starting with the first pioneers who traveled westward from the Great Plains, ranching was more than just a way of life. It was survival.
The Birth of Ranching in Colorado
There were two main promises that brought settlers away from their homes in the Midwest – the promise of more room to grow a family and the promise of untold riches to be had from gold prospecting. Before anyone had time to catch their breath, towns were beginning to dot the once vacant Colorado landscape and these families needed a way to fuel their expansion.
Those who weren’t off chasing riches and fortune in the foothills of the Rockies realized that the miners and new settlers needed a source of livestock, grain, and other essentials – thus ranching in Colorado was born. In fact, ranching was perhaps the foundation of sustainable economy in Colorado, allowing for further development of the state and surrounding regions.
Selecting a Homestead
Homesteaders freely selected their land based on the needs of their family. Hay and alfalfa for harvesting grew in abundance along the meadows of the Platte River, and the eastern plains provided a year round grazing area for livestock. Ranchers generally worked together to develop communities which eventually grew into towns. These settlements became a place where the children could be educated, goods and services traded, and weddings and other social events held.
Hardships of Ranch Life
Before the advent of modern irrigation and crop harvesting equipment, Colorado ranchers were at the mercy of Mother Nature. A drought or swarm of locusts could decimate an entire summer’s worth of hard work, while a flash flood could carry away livestock, never to be seen again. Even ranch families who were focused on only providing enough to sustain their family and animals found Colorado life rugged and unforgiving.
Those who did survive the hard work of summers and cold of winters, however, set the framework for further westward expansion. Future pioneers and settlers were able to utilize the established ranch settlements as a place to rest, before pushing on over the Rockies.
Modern Ranching in Colorado
Today, ranching in Colorado is considerably more forgiving, although just as vitally important to the economy of the region. Although pickup trucks are a staple of the modern day ranch in Colorado, these cowboys are just as comfortable holding the reigns of their cattle horse as they are behind the wheel. Modern weather predictors, advanced irrigation systems, and a better infrastructure make ranching in Colorado a more viable option for today’s farmer. But make no mistake; it takes the same dedication and love of nature to be a successful rancher today as it did two hundred years ago.
Amy Davis has sold luxury property in Colorado and California for over a decade. Her expertise in representing and assisting buyers of luxury real estate is evident in her work as a Steamboat Springs real estate agent.