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Fun Facts

Saguache County is a place full of interesting history, people, and places.
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Saguache County

Saguache County has a rich and complex history. Here are just a few interesting facts: • Pronunciation: The name "Saguache" comes from a Ute Indian word meaning "blue earth" or "water at blue earth." It is pronounced "suh-WATCH." • The county spans 3,170 square miles between the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the San Juan range and boasts a sparse population of just two people per square mile. • The county has over a thousand miles of roads, seven towns, and no functioning stoplights. • Historic Railroads: The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad once operated through the county, contributing to its historical significance. • Native American Presence: Before European settlement, the area of Saguache County was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Ute and Apache peoples. Evidence of their presence can still be found in the region, such as rock art and archaeological sites. • Early Settlement: The first European settlers arrived in the area in the mid-19th century, primarily attracted by opportunities for mining and ranching. Towns like Saguache and Crestone were established during this time as supply centers for the surrounding area. • Mining Boom: Like many areas in Colorado, Saguache County experienced a mining boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gold, silver, lead, zinc, and other minerals were mined in the region, leading to the rapid growth of towns and communities. • Cultural Diversity: Saguache County has a rich cultural history, shaped by the interactions between Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo settlers. This diversity is reflected in the county's architecture, cuisine, and traditions. • Sheep Industry: In addition to mining and cattle ranching, sheep herding played a significant role in the economy of Saguache County. At one point, the county was home to numerous sheep ranches, and wool production was a major industry. • Environmental Conservation: In recent decades, there has been a growing emphasis on environmental conservation in Saguache County. Efforts to protect natural habitats, preserve historic sites, and promote sustainable tourism have become increasingly important.

Great Sand Dunes

Millions of visitors come to see these impressive sand dunes in the heart of the San Luis Valley. • Big and Beautiful: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve covers an area of approximately 149,164 acres, which is equivalent to about 233 square miles or 603 square kilometers. • Towering Dunes: The park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, with some reaching as high as 750 feet. • Dynamic Dune Formation: Sand dunes are a result of sand deposits from ancient lakes that once covered the area. The dunes are constantly changing due to weather and wind. • Diverse Ecosystems: The park supports a surprisingly diverse range of wildlife and ecosystems that include wetlands, grasslands, forests, and alpine tundra. • Mother’s Love: Mary Belle “Mother” Bowers was a local rancher and conservationist who recognized the ecological and scenic value of the dunes and worked tirelessly with other residents to promote their conservation and establish the National Park in 2004. • Recreational Fun: Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities such as hiking, sandboarding, sledding, and wading in the seasonal Medano Creek. • Ancient History: Archaeological sites within the park reveal evidence of human occupation dating back over 10,000 years.

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The Mystic San Luis Valley

Rich in history, culture, and natural wonders, the San Luis Valley (the SLV) makes a fascinating and adventure-filled destination. • Vast and Expansive: At 8,000 square miles, the San Luis Valley is nearly the size of New Jersey. • High Altitude Rift Valley: The SLV is a rift valley, caused by tectonic forces pulling apart the Earth’s crust. This contributes to it’s high elevation at over 7,500’ above sea level as well as the surrounding mountain ranges. • Sangre de Cristos: Meaning “Blood of Christ” for the distinctive reddish hues often seen on the mountains during sunrise and sunset. • UFO Sightings: The area has a reputation as a hot spot for paranormal sightings and unexplained phenomenon! • Geothermal Energy: Beneath the Valley’s surface lies a significant geothermal resource with potential as a source of renewable energy. • Hot Springs: Geothermal energy has created many natural hot springs in the area. Revered for centuries for their therapeutic properties, visitors can enjoy soaking in many settings from secluded natural pools to spa resorts. • Sandhill Crane Migration: Each spring, tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes stopover in the Valley during their annual migration, creating a beautiful spectacle of nature. • Historic Trade: The Valley has been traversed by many cultures, beginning with Native American tribes who came to hunt, trade, and gather. Then came trappers’ trails, the Old Spanish Trail, stagecoach routes, and railroad lines.

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