The last county (1913) created in Colorado received the same name as the county seat, Alamosa (Spanish for cottonwood tree grove). The town was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1878 as its regional headquarters. Ultimately as many as 700 railroaders worked in Alamosa, which quickly became the hub of the San Luis Valley.
Half the county's population has been centered in Alamosa since the 1880s. The rest of this relatively flat county is occupied by farms, ranches, fifteen ghost towns, and the 1930s Farm Security Administration Resettlement project of Waverly. Tiny Hooper and Mosca are the only post office communities beside Alamosa. Farmers rely on artesian wells for center-pivot irrigators and on canals from the Rio Grande and its tributaries for grain, hay, and vegetable raising.
The Great Sand Dunes National Monument is guarded by the snowcapped massif of 14,345-foot Blanca Peak (Sierra Blanca), Colorado's fourth highest mountain. Standing by itself west of the rest of the Sangre de Cristo Range, The Blanca massif inspired Franklin Rhoda, surveyor for the Hayden expedition of 1874, to report, “Such a beautiful subordination of parts we have not seen before anywhere among the mountains of Colorado.” When the first recorded expedition climbed Blanca in 1874, its members found a stone breastwork—presumably the work of either Utes or Spaniards.
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