ELDORADO CANYON STATE PARK
ELDORADO CANYON STATE PARK
9 Kneale Road
Eldorado Springs, Colorado 80025
Eldorado Canyon State Park
© copyright Sue Deutscher 2010
Eldorado Canyon is a hidden treasure right in Boulder's backyard! Whether it's hiking amidst the towering sandstone cliffs, picnicking along scenic South Boulder Creek or climbing Eldo's sheer golden walls, Eldorado Canyon State Park truly has something for everyone! Discover this hidden jewel and take home memories that will last a lifetime.
Eldorado Canyon offers over five hundred technical rock climbing routes luring climbers from around the world to challenge their skills on "Eldo's" golden cliffs. The beauty of this canyon engages all who visit. Hike or mountain bike our picturesque trails that vary from easy to difficult and connect with Boulder's trail systems. Enjoy a picnic by, or fish in, scenic South Boulder Creek. In the winter, Eldorado Canyon offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The quiet beauty of the park can be experienced best in the cooler months, and during summer weekdays. Please avoid the summer weekend crowds! Eldorado Canyon almost always reaches vehicle capacity on weekends and holidays from May through September, i.e. after filling the Park, vehicles are only admitted when space becomes available.
Wildlife at Eldorado Canyon
Mule deer, elk, black bear, bobcat, red fox, coyote and mountain lion inhabit the foothills in and around Eldorado Canyon. Riparian habitats in the park serve as movement corridors for these animals. Large populations of bats breed in the caves in the Inner Canyon. Seven out of ten bat species recorded in Boulder County occur in the park. South Boulder Creek supports cold-water fish species, including rainbow, brook, and brown trout, longnose dace, and white and longnose suckers.
Over eighty species of migratory and resident birds have been recorded for this area including raptors, songbirds and waterfowl. Golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and prairie falcons nest within and around the park; seasonal closures of some climbing routes is enforced to protect raptor nesting sites. Sightings of wild turkeys and blue grouse occur in Crescent Meadows and American dippers may be seen along streams.
Plants at Eldorado Canyon
Eldorado Canyon State Park includes 1,488 acres located in the unique ecological zone between the grasslands of the plains and the forests of Front Range foothills. The two main areas in the park are the Inner Canyon and Crescent Meadows. Elevations range from 5,800 and 8,800 feet.
Eldorado exemplifies the diversity of vegetation types found in Colorado's Front Range foothills. Many factors attribute to this diversity, including the park's varied topography, soils, microclimates of the canyon and, specifically, its location in the ecotone between mixed grass prairie and montane woodland. Vegetation communities at Eldorado are the following:
* Douglas-fir forest * Ponderosa pine savanna * Mixed grass prairie *Northern riparian forest * Riparian shrubland * Mixed foothill shrubland
Nearly barren rock outcrops and cliffs support lichen and moss communities. Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper are the dominant trees, commonly associated species include mountain mahogany, skunkbrush, currant, kinnikinnick, goldaster and beard-tongue. Dominant grass species include little bluestem, blue and side-oats grama, needle-and-thread grass, pine dropseed, prairie Junegrass, western wheatgrass, purple three-awn and smooth brome. One rare plant association, Douglas-fir/river birch, occurs in the northeast corner of Crescent Meadows. Riparian and wetland communities, though limited, are found along South Boulder Creek tributary drainages and on seeps and springs. Plains and narrowleaf cottonwood, Rocky Mountain maple, boxelder, chokecherry and American plum dominate riparian communities. Wetland communities are characterized by a number of shrubby willow species, Nebraska and aquatic sedge, Arctic rush and grass species.
Before European Settlement
The Ute Native American tribes who lived in the mountains of Colorado and Utah frequented Eldorado Canyon, savoring the warm springs for health and spiritual renewal. A few arrowheads and artifacts remain, as most were removed before Eldorado Canyon became a State Park. In Spanish, the words "el dorado" mean gilded or covered with gold, which may refer to the golden color of the lichen on the cliffs.
By the mid-1800s the Utes had lost most of eastern Colorado to settlers. In 1858, John Doudy was the first to homestead along South Boulder Creek. Others soon followed: John DeBacker, Jonas and Vira Ann Barber, John Dunn, and the Pruden family. Vira Ann Barber brought black walnuts with her, carrying them in her shoes, and planted them in the area. Some of her trees still bear fruit today. These pioneers established ranches and farms, small businesses, sawmills and logging operations near Eldorado Canyon.
In the 1880s Phillip Kneale and his two brothers were the first homesteaders within the canyon itself. He ran a sawmill one mile west of the present State Park and built a home in 1912 that is still occupied by his descendants. Kneale built a boarding house adjacent to the mill for his logging crews. Horse-drawn wagons carried lumber out of the canyon entry along a road which had been built as a grade for a narrow-gauge railroad in the 1890s. The railroad was a failed venture of the Colorado Southern and Pacific - no track was ever laid; this is the current day "Fowler Trail."
The Golden Era
The turn of the century ushered in a new era for the canyon. In 1902 the federal government granted Union Pacific land in the area to construct a railroad. The "Moffat Road" rail line still operates today along the southern flank of the canyon as the Denver & Rio Grande route from Denver west to Winter Park and beyond.
In 1904 spiritualist George Taylor's group bought 480 acres of the canyon from the Union Pacific railroad. Later that year, Frank Fowler, a young entrepreneur, purchased the property with his partners from Taylor for $5000.
During its heyday the resort boasted two hotels (the Grandview and New Eldorado), three swimming pools, two dance ballrooms, roller- and ice-skating rinks, cabins, stables and many other amenities. The Eldorado Springs Resort attracted many celebrities, including the young Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower who honeymooned in one of the cabins in 1916.
Starting in 1908, the Interurban railway made nine trips a day from Marshall to Eldorado Springs, bringing thousands to enjoy the "Coney Island of the West." The $l.25 round-trip fare included entry into the resort for swimming, dancing, hiking and other recreation. By 1907 cars packed the parking lots daily, carrying about 40,000 people a day to the resort.
In 1907 aerialist Ivy Baldwin became another major attraction. He moved to Eldorado after an adventurous life as a high wire acrobat, balloonist and parachutist. He performed in the circus for many years, including a show for the Emperor of Japan, and he served in the Spanish-American War as a parachute specialist performing reconnaissance work. Thousands of people gathered on weekends and holidays to watch Ivy Baldwin walk across a 7/8-inch thick, steel cable stretched from the top of Castle Rock to the Wind Tower, 672 feet across and over 400 feet above South Boulder Creek. Ivy Baldwin took six and a half minutes to walk to the middle of the stretched cable, bow, and then stand on his head, before continuing to the opposite side, the entire time without a safety net. In 1948 this incredible man celebrated his 82nd birthday by walking the wire one last time.
The New Eldorado Hotel was built in 1908 as a luxury spot; it sat grandly above one of the swimming pools and the dance hall. The hotel offered forty rooms and was an excellent example of the nineteenth century Georgian style architecture.
Water levels are currently suitable for kayaking. Class III - VI whitewater kayaking is permitted in South Boulder Creek from just below Gross Resevoir to until you are scared. The stretch of the creek travelling through the Canyon is primarily class VI. The highest water flow is in May and June. Tubing, rafting, etc. are not permitted for safety reasons. When water flow is at its highest, wading the stream is not advised. The stream can be up to 7 feet deep in places, the water flow can exceed 400 fps.