Palisade is a small, mainly agricultural community situated on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies. Water derived from the Colorado River and distributed via a system of irrigation canals brought agriculture to this arid area. Long known for its outstanding fruit crops, especially its nationally coveted peaches, it is also now home to a thriving wine industry.
Sweet varieties include Bing and Lambert cherries. Ripe sweet cherries have a very dark maroon color and will last up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Supplies can be sporadic due to spring frosts. Sour (tart or pie) cherries are mostly of the Montmorency variety. Ripeness is determined by a deep, bright red color. They may be stored over a week in the refrigerator, but are mostly canned or frozen to be enjoyed year round. Availability - Sweet cherries - June 20 - July 10, Sour cherries - July 15 - 25.
There are several very similar varieties of apricots grown in Palisade. When ripe, they have a golden orange color and are soft to the touch. Apricots can be stored 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Availability - June 25 - July 5.
Palisade is known nationwide for its delicious peaches. Early varieties include Red Haven and July Elberta. Early varieties have softer flesh, come in smaller supplies and are available approximately July 25 - August 10. Mid-summer varieties, including Suncrest, Crest Haven and Flavor Crest, are better for canning and freezing, and are available approximately August 15 - 30. Late varieties include Elberta, Redskin and Hale, also good for canning and freezing and are available approximately August 25 - September 10. All varieties can be stored for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Ripeness is best determined by the amount of yellow/orange color.
Ripe plums have deep color with no green and can be stored 2-5 weeks refrigerated. Santa Rosa variety available August 1 -15, Prune plums available August 25 - September 15.
Bartlett pears are the most commonly grown variety in Palisade, although Anjou, Bose and other varieties can also be found here. Pears should be picked and stored while green and firm and ripen best off the tree. They keep, refrigerated, 3-5 weeks. Available August 15 - September 15.
Our major growers have mostly wine grapes and a few table varieties. Ripe grapes have a sweet taste and uniform color and may be stored for 2-3 week in the refrigerator. Most supplies are committed to commercial wineries. Available September 9 - 25.
Many varieties are grown in the area. Summer varieties are available approximately July 25 - August 25, and retain their green color. Winter varieties are ripe when they attain a uniform red color over the entire apple, and are available September 15 - October 30. Both varieties can be stored for 1-2 months refrigerated.
Peach Packing Line
Fruit Growing and Marketing Cooperatives. In order to facilitate packing, selling and shipping "Mountain Grown" peaches and other fruit crops, cooperatives were created. The first, Palisade Fruit Growers, was organized in 1904.
The largest, the United Fruit Growers Association, was founded in 1923 and handled approximately 40% of the fruit shipped from the Valley. Peaches were harvested, packed and shipped in a three-week period, meaning shipments of more than 100 cars per day. Half of the total shipments would move in a seven-day period. The main variety was "Standard Elberta."
A hard freeze hit the valley in December 1962 and January 1963. As a result, approximately half the fruit acreage was wiped out and very little replanting occurred as the land was used for other purposes. Wine grapes were planted beginning in the late 1970s, and in 1982, the Rocky Mountain Association of Vintners and Viticulturists was formed.
Ideal Peach Growing climate
The local climate is often referred to as The Banana Belt. The mild climate and unique terrain create near-perfect peach growing conditions in the approximate 10 mile area stretching from the tip of Mt. Garfield to the south end of East Orchard Mesa. Wind moves 8 to 12 mph down-slope from the north and is focused by DeBeque Canyon. It is compressed and warms to prevent crop-killing frosts in the spring. As the wind moves down valley-further west-it spreads out and its warming effect is diminished. In addition, the palisades absorb warmth during the spring and help prevent frost damage. The climate of a 182-day growing season and an average 78 percent sunshine, make Palisade "The Peach Capital."
Irrigation Canals - With annual precipitation of 9.2" and snowfall of 14," irrigation is vital for commercial crops. An intricate system of more than 80 miles of canals includes a 480 foot wide roller dam constructed across the Colorado River four miles east of Cameo by the U.S. Reclamation Service starting in 1913. It diverts water into The Government Highline Canal along the north end of Town. The Price and Stub ditches were constructed to serve lands not served by the Highline. The Palisade Irrigation District was organized in 1904 after private companies ran into financial difficulty. The Orchard Mesa Irrigation system siphons water in DeBeque Canyon and includes a hydroelectric generation plant east of Palisade.
Mt. Lincoln Coal Mine in Production
Coal Mining - Over 500 square miles of coal lands lie in the Bookcliffs coal field where, in 1934, the U.S.G.S. estimated there was 12 billion tons of burnable coal. The Cameo mine was opened in 1882 and provides coal for the nearby Public Service Company power plant. In World War I, the mine employed 225 men. The chain of coal mines in the Mesa Verde group also included the Garfield, Gearhart and Palisade.
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