Steamboat History

The Yampa Valley was the summer hunting grounds of the Ute Indians for hundreds of years. The first white men passed through the area in the early 1800's. The name Steamboat Springs is said to have originated in the late 1820's when three French Trappers, traveling along the Yampa River, heard a "chug chug" sound. Thinking they had reached a major river, one yelled, "a Steamboat, by gar!" Upon further investigation, they discovered the sound came from a natural mineral spring, to be named Steamboat Springs. The Steamboat Spring still sits at the far end of town; however, it ceased to "chug" when the railroad bed was laid above it in 1908.

It wasn't until 1875 that the first permanent settler, James Crawford, brought his family to this area. Crawford lived peacefully among the Ute Indians, who annually visited the "medicine springs." After the removal of the Indians from Colorado in 1880 following the battle at Milk Creek, other settlers gradually joined the Crawfords. By 1885, five other families had settled in the area.

Crawford, who spent a few of his winters in Boulder, Colorado, persuaded several prominent businessmen to join him in organizing the Steamboat Springs Townsite Company in 1884. James Maxwell, the surveyor, laid out the town. In the Summer of 1885, these men got a newspaperman, James Hoyle, to bring a printing press to their new town, and so the Steamboat Pilot began publications on July 31, 1885 and has appeared weekly ever since.

From the earliest times, the town's greatest attractions have been its natural mineral springs, located throughout the town and outlying areas. The Ute Indians came for the "medicine springs," while the miners traveled 30 miles from the gold mines at Hahn's Peak to bath in the hot springs. Once the train "arrived" in 1909 and replaced the stage lines, health conscious travelers from around the country visited to partake of the various hot baths and mineral springs.

The History of Skiing in Steamboat

Skis (in early years referred to as snowshoes) were a means of travel until Carl Howelsen arrived in 1914 and changed the lives of the town's residents. Howelsen introduced ski jumping and launched a recreation industry. The annual Winter Carnival was established the same year. Howelsen Hill was eventually named after the famous "flying Norseman," who was a Barnum and Bailey Circus star.

Both cattle and sheep ranching have remained as major industries in the Yampa valley, along with wheat and hay production and coal mining. Until the 1920's, cattle ranching was the largest single industry in the area. In 1912, strawberries were marketed throughout the country from the area just north of downtown known as Strawberry Park.

By the 1950's the popularity of skiing fostered the development of another ski area south of town. Storm Mountain was transformed into a world class ski area, opening in 1961. The ski area was renamed Mount Werner in 1964, after the death of local Olympic skier Buddy Werner.

Steamboat Springs has been the cultural center for northwest Colorado since 1914, when the Perry Mansfield Camp was established in Strawberry Park. Now in its 85th year, continuing as the oldest performing arts center in the nation, the historic camp has served as the impetus for cultural activities and organizations such as the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Community Players and Strings in the Mountains.

The historic buildings and site of Steamboat Springs trace to the evolution from a self-sufficient wilderness frontier village and cow-town to a farming-ranching-mining community, source of educational & cultural opportunities, ski-jumping and recreation center, and resort town.

Click on the images below for bios on a few of our Olympians!