In the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado is a high grassland basin known as South Park. Its elevation is about 10,000 feet and has an area of approximately 1,000 square miles (about 640,000 acres). It’s location around the headwaters of the South Platte River in Park County approximately 60 miles south and west of Denver makes it a fantastic and close getaway from the busy urban areas. There are three such large mountain valleys in Colorado and South Park is the most southern of the three. The others are North Park and Middle Park. The largest town in the basin is Fairplay, which is near the northern portion and is the County Seat.
The Mosquito Range is along the western side of the valley and the extinct Thirtynine Mile volcanic field is located just to the southeast. Red Hill runs through the center of the valley running pretty much north to south. Tarryall Range runs through the northern edge and the Chaffee County borders the southwestern portion.
Gold mining in South Park began in 1859. The gravel ridges around Fairplay are the result of gold dredging. Geologically speaking, South Park has some of the same formations that produce oil and gas, however trying to find it has been unsuccessful. Uranium has been found and successfully mined here.
Routes to and through South Park include U.S. Highway 285 running Northeast to Southwest, U.S. Highway 9 running North to South, and U.S. Highway 24 running East to West. Kenosha Pass, Hoosier Pass, Wilkerson Pass and Trout Creek Pass are several high mountain passes in the Park. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, the railroad was a major part of the area. Whole towns were created to support the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad. Unfortunately, only a few historic structures remain of the railroad but they bring thousands of visitors each year.
The Ute Tribe inhabited South Park until the mid 1800’s. The discovery of gold brought many in the hopes of striking it rich, which eventually pushed the Ute’s out of the area. Fairplay was founded to provide a “Fair Play” for everyone as many of the mining towns were known for their lawlessness. South Park City in Fairplay is a great place to visit to experience first-hand the historical gold rush period.
A multitude of animals call South Park home. The largest Elk Herd in North America (possibly the world) roams the area. Mule and White-Tail deer are also plentiful as well as antelope, bears, bobcats, lynx, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, bald and golden eagles, hawks, owls, a few moose, and much, much more! It’s hard to travel through South Park without seeing one or more of its wonderful creatures!!
Fishing, along with hunting, brings in more visitors than even skiers! The most famous river is the South Platte River and there are several forks to choose from right in Park County. Smaller creeks also offer great fishing experiences including Tarryall Creek, Trout Creek, Michigan Creek, and Four-Mile Fishing Creek. South Park also has several large and famous reservoirs including Spinney, Eleven Mile, Antero, Montgomery, and Tarryall. These reservoirs not only provide great summer fishing but fantastic winter ice fishing as well! And our hunting is second to none! Plenty of National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land, and State Land to choose from, not only for hunting, but also for hiking, ATVing, 4-wheeling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and much, much more!!