Young (1909) Jackson County comprises most of North Park, the high, isolated headwaters of the North Platte River. The park, which spills into Wyoming, is the northernmost of Colorado's four large, mountain-rimmed central valleys. It is defined on the east by the Medicine Bow Mountains, on the south by the Rabbit Ears Range, on the southeast by the Never Summer Range, and on the west by the Park Range. These forested mountains and foothills descend to dry grasslands and sagebrush on a valley floor that the Indians called the Buffalo Pen. White settlers have made the 1,628-square-mile county a live-stock pen, noted for its cattle ranches.
Jacques Bijeau, Jim Bridger, Old Bill Williams, Jim Baker, and other legendary mountain men hunted in North Park as early as the 1830s. Rabbit Ears Pass and Willow Creek Pass on the south (now traversed by U.S. 40) and Cameron Pass on the east became the principal routes into the county. The early gold mining towns of Pinkhampton and Teller have vanished, leaving only scars in the landscape. Ranchers began to settle by the 1880s, and the railroad spur (1911) from Laramie, Wyoming, made coal mining and logging important. Lumber mills are still active at Gould and Walden.
Of some 1,600 residents, half reside in the county seat of Walden. Hay ranching is the mainstay, with cattle and sheep also important. Oil and coal production, and a little gold mining, boost the economy. Recreation has become a tourist draw in a county with abundant public lands, including the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, the North Sand Hills Recreation Area, several wildlife refuges, Routt National Forest, and Colorado's only state forest. Antelope, bear, beaver, deer, and recently introduced moose make this county popular with wildlife lovers—and hunters.
Functional metal, stone, and wood-sided buildings are battened down against the winds and blizzards. The county offers Colorado's finest tipi ring site northwest of Cowdrey and vintage ranch complexes such as the Big Horn.
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