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Eagle Valley History

mountain man

It is believed that the first settlement in the lower Eagle Valley was Dotsero, and it began by accident. The settlement started in 1879 after a couple of prospectors came to what had been Ute hunting grounds. Exploring the Flat Tops above Dotsero, they discovered some lead-silver ore in the form of carbonates. It took a few years for the tales of “rich bonanzas” to spread, and a rush started for the mining camp of Carbonate in the spring of 1883. However, the snows on the Flat Tops were so deep that the stampeders found it impossible to get up to the mining camp. So, about 1,500 prospectors settled near the confluence of the Eagle and Grand Rivers (now the Colorado River) to wait for the snow to melt. Thus Dotsero began, but the little community’s fortunes were tied to that of Carbonate, where the miners soon discovered the ore vein was limited and the weather conditions were daunting.

In 1882, Orion W. Daggett (a miner, rancher, merchant and newspaper editor) was one of the first pioneers in the Gypsum Creek Valley. A handful of other white settlers eventually laid out their ranches, and there were 31 ranches in the Gypsum Creek Valley by 1884. In 1887, the Rio Grande Railroad extended tracks to Gypsum.

old store

William Edwards was the first man to lay out the town, which would later be called Eagle, at the mouth of Brush Creek. The town site went through a series of name changes – including Castle, Brush, Rio Aquilla (Spanish for “Eagle River”) and Eagle River Crossing. In 1895, Alex McDonald purchased the town site for back taxes, and named it after himself. Local residents never accepted that name, however. By 1895, McDonald was out of the picture, and the town was incorporated under the name of Eagle.

For decades, the Eagle and Gypsum area thrived as a ranching community. The area was known for its excellent crops of hay, grains, potatoes and head lettuce. In the mid-1960s, ski resort development at Vail was instrumental in changing the valley to a resort-based economy.

These humble beginnings have not been forgotten. There still exists a quiet, small-town atmosphere along with the breathtaking wide-open expanses of rolling mountainsides. Tourism has become a key draw to the area for these reasons.

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