The ranches of the Upper Arkansas River Valley were an integral part of the rich history of Leadville, Lake County, and the State of Colorado. Discovery of gold in 1860 in California Gulch, and later the vast stores of silver and non-precious metals underlying the historic Leadville Mining District, opened the Central Colorado Rockies to exploration and development. Given that the “horse power” of the day was literally that: horses, mules, burros, and oxen, the “fuel” for the mining boom was the hay that was harvested on ranches along the river bottom of the Arkansas River. Today, two of those ranches, the Hayden and Derry, form the core of the Lake County Open Space, and are identified as critical historic and scenic resources along the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway.

The Lake County Open Space Initiative contracted for a cultural inventory and engineering analysis of the historic structures of the Hayden and Derry Ranches, which led to their designation as historic landmarks on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The structures of the Derry Mining Camp (5LK.1341) were determined to be beyond stabilization and rehabilitation due to their deteriorated state. They were photographed to archival standards, and architectural drawings were prepared as part of a HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) survey for recordation in the Library of Congress.

The structures of the Hayden Ranch (5LK.1340) have been designated as the Hayden Ranch Headquarters National Historic District, and over $750,000.00 in stabilization work has been funded and performed to date to restore the structural integrity of the key buildings. The Hayden Homestead parcel was donated to Colorado Preservation Inc. (CPI) by the City of Aurora, who had acquired the ranch for its water rights.

CPI in turn placed a Deed of Conservation Easement on the property to protect its historic resources and transferred ownership to Colorado Mountain College in 2008 for use as an experiential learning campus.

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