Miners discovered silver in a sheer cliff of the Wet Mountain Valley in June 1878. During the resulting rush, Silver Cliff grew very quickly. The 1880 census listed Silver Cliff’s population as 5,040, making it the third largest city in Colorado.
By 1881, Silver Cliff’s boom prompted The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to extend its growing rail lines onto a property it purchased one mile west of Silver Cliff. The new spur followed the same Grape Creek path Zebulon Pike walked 75 years earlier. With a new depot, homes and businesses, the town of Westcliffe was born.
An 1881 flash flood destroyed the Westcliffe line. Rebuilt in 1884, the line was abandoned after an 1889 flood. Westcliffe, however, remained and prospered.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad returned with a line from Texas Creek to Westcliffe in 1901. That route, abandoned in 1938, paralleled what is now Colorado Highway 69, offering access to markets for the area’s growing cattle operations, prized mountain valley hay and other produce.
Learn more about the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad at All Aboard Westcliffe.