COBWEB CORNERS: Big fire, major logging... where?
By Mel McFarland
Long before the gold rush to Cripple Creek, there were many people working all over our hills doing things that in some cases made them a good living. I often think of one of these businesses as I ride the cog train up and down Pike's Peak, and I have written about it here before.
The lumber business was the big industry in our area as long as 150 years ago. The main drawback was a fire before the settlers came. It had burned an area that makes the Hayman fire look small. It burned from near Manitou Park, down Ute Pass, across the front of Pike's Peak to the Royal Gorge, then back north along where it had already burned, almost as far north as Palmer Lake. It was burning for some 16 months, I have heard. If you look at old pictures over in the History Center even 100 years ago, you do not see that many trees. But there were areas, like up by Westcreek, that did not completely burn off. In the area west of here, lumbering in the 1870s cleared many big trees, yet as time went along the forests recovered to the point where people are amazed to learn just how much lumbering happened here.
Many of the trees lost in the Hayman burn were survivors from logging 100 years ago. All over our hills to the west and north, areas without towns had logging camps dating back to the 1870s. The first big logging camps provided timber to build Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Denver. When the railroads arrived, moving the lumber became easier, plus they needed lumber too. Some of this lumber was still hauled miles to get to the railroad. Not only did big trees become buildings, but bridges and cross ties too. Finer cuts of wood were even used to build railroad cars.
Way back, I wrote about the industries in Colorado City, and one industry that was always showing up was lumbering. Colorado City was home to at least three lumber companies that got their lumber from Ute Pass and even farther away. Down along Cucharras Street, the second biggest businesses 100 years ago were the lumber yards.
Way up in the mountains, mother nature replanted trees that were lost in the Big Fire. One of those we enjoy the sight of every fall and will be getting its leaves soon - the Aspen trees. The Aspen tree is generally the first tree to come back after a fire or extensive logging.