May 27, 2023

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

History of Steamboat Springs

3 min read
downtown steamboat co

Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is a picturesque town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It’s best known for its hot springs and world-class ski resorts, but the town’s history is just as fascinating as its natural beauty. This article delves into the rich history of Steamboat Springs, from its indigenous roots to its transformation into a thriving mountain town.

Indigenous Roots

Various indigenous tribes have lived on the land where Steamboat Springs is now located for centuries. The Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne were among the tribes who lived in this area. The tribes highly valued the medicinal and spiritual properties of the area’s hot springs. They believed in the healing powers of the waters, and held ceremonies and rituals near the springs on a regular basis. 

At that time, they would not have known the source of the heat in the water. Since their only knowledge of heat sources would be fire, iti makes sense that they would believe hot springs were warmed by magic. The healing properties of the mineral water are still made use of until today. 

Early Settlement

In the late 1800s, European Americans first arrived in Steamboat Springs as fur trappers. They named the springs they found. Steamboat Springs got its name from the sound of the chugging springs, which sounded like a steamboat to early settlers. According to popular stories of the area, one of the trappers actually alerted his companions to the presence of, he thought, a steamboat. It was later discovered that it was the sound of the spring itself. 

In 1875, James Crawford founded the first permanent settlement in Steamboat Springs. Crawford established a farm and built a cabin near the hot springs. He pushed for the growth of the town beyond passers-through and trappers and explorers. 

In the years that followed, more people began to settle in the town. With the establishment of a sawmill, which would become a center of productivity, it grew slowly but steadily as the population grew, with new businesses and homes springing up. By 1900, Steamboat Springs had developed into an agricultural and mining center, with several successful mines and ranches in the area. Pioneers continued to settle there, and visitors and tourists came to soak in the hot mineral springs. Until today, agriculture is an important part of its economy. 

The Rise of Skiing

In the early 1900s, Steamboat Springs began to gain popularity as a winter sports destination. As it was situated in a valley, Yampa Valley, the slopes would be fully coated with snow. Skiing was originally seen as a means of transportation. However, once Carl Howelson introduced ski jumping, recreational skiing took hold. In 1913, Steamboat Springs built the first ski jump, and the town quickly became a popular ski destination. Skiing, however, did not take off in Steamboat Springs until the 1960s.

Steamboat Ski Resort first opened its doors in 1963 and quickly became a favorite of skiers from all over the world. The resort boasted some of the best skiing in the country, with a variety of runs for skiers of all skill levels. To meet the growing demand, the resort has expanded over the years, adding new lifts and runs.

The Modern Era

Steamboat Springs has grown into a thriving mountain town that attracts visitors from all over the world. Although the town’s hot springs and ski resorts remain its main draws, there is much more to the town. It has a vibrant arts and culture scene, with galleries, museums, and performing arts venues displaying the work of local and national artists. It has become a place to even live and settle given the need. 

In recent years, it has also become a hub for outdoor recreation, with hiking, biking, and fishing available during the summer months. Because of its proximity to the Yampa River, the town has become a popular kayaking and rafting destination. 

Steamboat Springs’ history is fascinating, filled with tales of indigenous tribes, early settlers, and modern-day adventurers. Since its humble beginnings as a farming community, the town has come a long way, and it continues to evolve and grow with each passing year. Steamboat Springs is a must-see destination for anyone who enjoys winter sports, hot springs, or simply enjoying the great outdoors.

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