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Summit County Colorado

Summit County government offices are located at 208 East Lincoln Avenue, Breckenridge, CO 80424; phone: 970-453-3470.

Beginnings [1]

Summit County's history has included several different "waves" of settlement and activity. The first wave, of which little is recorded, is the use of the County by Native Americans. Because of the County's high elevations, the land was primarily visited by Native Americans during the summertime for hunting. Signs of these visitations can be found in areas such as Vail Pass, where archaeologists have uncovered an historic Ute hunting camp.

The second wave occurred with the arrival of settlers from the east and the gold rush. In 1859 gold was found in the Blue River just north of present day Breckenridge and the gold rush was on. The Town of Breckenridge was founded, and it became the first permanent town on Colorado's western slope. Soon, other areas of the County were prospected and dozens of town settlements sprung up to feed the gold rush frenzy. The towns of Frisco and Dillon were established during this mining boom era. But for every town that endured, numerous others eventually disappeared as the mining claims were played out. Once thriving mining towns such as Parkville, Chihuahua, Wheeler, and Robinson eventually became only memories. However, there are still numerous remnants of the area's history scattered throughout the County. These remnants include mining shafts, old mine buildings, and tailings associated with the area's mining legacy. Old settler's cabins can also be found in numerous locations.

While mining was the dominant employment activity in most of the County during the late 1800s and early 1900s, another source of income came from ranching. Ranching occurred throughout the valley areas of the County, but was most prevalent in the Lower Blue River valley. Because of the high elevation, ranching in the County has been mostly limited to raising cattle and growing hay. Some of the ranches in the County have been handed down through the family for generations, and continue to be actively ranched.

By the 1960s, mining was mainly a memory of the past (with the exception of the Climax Molybdenum Mine at Fremont Pass). Population had dwindled from the mining boom years. In its place, "white" gold began to be harvested at Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge ski areas. As skiing increased in popularity, the Keystone and Copper Mountain ski areas were created in the early 1970s and the County was experiencing its third wave of settlement and growth. Today's economy is based primarily on the County's recreational amenities.

  1. Summit County Colorado, Countywide Comprehensive Plan, 2009,, accessed October, 2012.
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