Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bucolic Agrarian Landscapes in Routt County Colorado, Near Steamboat

Routt County, Colorado Map

Living here in Boulder, Colorado, I know a lot of people who head to Steamboat for some down time. I'd never been there and wondered what I was missing. Two weeks ago I got to find out and at the end of this post are a few of the Ag-related photos that I took.

First, a few facts about agriculture in Routt County...

The value of agricultural products sold in Routt County according to the 2012 USDA Ag Census was $46.5 million with leading products cattle, hay, and sheep.

The county is about 2,362 square miles or 1,511,680 acres, with 710,490 acres or 47% of the total dedicated as agricultural acres. The county's population was 23,509 in 2010. In 2007 there were 225 farms larger than 180 acres, and, 33 farms smaller than 180 acres. The average growing season in Steamboat Springs is 59 days at an altitude of 6,732 feet.

Routt County was created out of the western portion of Grand County in 1877. It was named after John Long Routt, who was the first state governor of Colorado.
  • In the early part of the 20th century, cattle, hay, lettuce and strawberries were leading exports from the county via the railroad.
  • By 1913 more cattle were shipped from the Steamboat Springs railroad than any other single point in the U.S.
  • In 1890 a large flour mill was built in Steamboat Springs.
  • Routt County Strawberry Company, formed in 1910, shipped strawberries to Denver in the early 1900's.
  • By 1926 thousands of sacks of potatoes were shipped from Steamboat Springs.
  • The Yampa Valley Head Lettuce Association, formed in 1923, sent over 700 rail car loads of lettuce annually to California alone.

Unfortunately, by the mid 1940's, labor and transportation became issues that forced the demise of the commercial vegetable and fruit crops.

In subsidies, the county recently received:

  • $12,726,455 for the Conservation Reserve Program
  • $4,278,541 for Wheat
  • $4,009,674 in Disaster Payments
  • $1,517,245 for Livestock
  • $743,505 for Barley
Next, my photojournalism of agrarian scenes in Routt County. This is a rich geological area, with 150 hot springs in and around Steamboat. It was heaven to be out in wide open spaces and expansive grasslands.

Pastureland South of Steamboat, Colorado ~ Routt County, Colorado

Speaking of hot springs, some of the formations in this area looked volcanic.

Irrigation Ditch alongside Pasture Fence ~ Routt County, Colorado

There was water in the irrigation ditch.

Tractor in front of Ranch House in Routt County, Colorado

I admired this particular farm at the end of a scenic road, as it had such a wonderful setting and barns.

Main Street ~ Yampa, Colorado

The town of Yampa had two wonderful old storefronts as well as a delightful main street with parking down the center.

Cattle grazing in sages, grasslands ~ Routt County, Colorado

I can't emphasize enough that the best part of the above scene was the smell. Note the Flat Top Mountain Wilderness in the background.

Happy Cows grazing amongst daisies ~ Routt County Pasture

This was a particularly beautiful sight.

Round Bales in Hayfield south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Hay is one of the county's top sales categories.

Ranchland at sunset in Elk River Valley north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Some places in the county, especially the areas near Steamboat, have been carved up into very large oversized homes on small acreages, as well as status ranches, many of which had "FOR SALE" signs up in July 2016. Perhaps owners (frequently Texan's) are trying to cash out while the getting's good.

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