Beaver trappers moved into the Wet Mountain Valley in 1870, clearing all the dam builders from the area in a few short years. Without beaver dams, snowmelt flowed freely through the valley allowing cottonwood trees to flourish and the landscape to change.
Prospectors soon discovered silver and gold, drawing 8,000 people into the valley by the 1880s. Many cleared trees for housing and crops. Cattlemen brought several large herds into the newly opened land, igniting the valley’s chief industry.
The Wet Mountain Valley’s largest herds began to arrive in 1879 with Edwin Beckwith, who settled a half-dozen miles north of Silver Cliff. Other cattlemen and their herds settled in parts of the valley where runoff-irrigated land was prime for growing hay and raising livestock. An estimated 13,000 head of cattle roamed Custer County by 1880.
Custer County ranching continues with active grazing, hay and calving operations. The community celebrates its ranching heritage at several annual events, and conservation easements help maintain the county’s open space and beauty.
Custer County’s large-scale ranching events draw crowds from all over Colorado. But if you’re looking for something more intimate, we also offer smaller experiences that provide a unique taste of ranching life.
The Arkansas Valley Flywheelers hosts a tractor pull each June at Silver Cliff’s community park. Though members restore everything from animal-powered rigs to military equipment, you’ll see the power and might of the antique machine on display at this event. Check out our events calendar or contact us for information on this year’s Antique Tractor Pull.