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Trust Our Land: Exploring Eagle County’s rich history

The Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Community Land Connections series is moving forward this summer. Visit to learn more and RSVP for upcoming events. 
Raj Manickam | Special to the Daily

By Oliver Skelly

The red sandstone gates harboring Interstate-70 between Wolcott and Eagle are the first signal to any westward motorist that the transition to desert has begun. It is a striking color clash – the cardinal cliffs mingled with dense green shrubbery, looming over the continual whirs of traffic. What’s not so apparent to the infrequent passerby however, is the old mining equipment that lies dilapidated yet beckoning of a story to be told.

Horn Ranch, as it has come to be known, has a colorful history synonymous with the red and green landscape it lies within. From its origins as a homestead parcel belonging to Rupert Sherwood to Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s cattle ranch, before finally being sold to Leonard Horn – Eagle County’s very own gentleman rancher, if you will – the Horn Ranch story encapsulates the allure of the West all within spitting distance of the Eagle River.

The property’s claim to fame is arguably the sandstone blocks that were chiseled away and shipped east along the railroad, many of which provided the building material for Denver’s famous Brown Palace Hotel. The mining operation began in the 1880s and like so many in Colorado, was a fervent and ambitious affair requiring the hands of many westward drifters. It was all for naught, however; as quickly as work in the quarry began had the workers succumbed to an outbreak of smallpox.

It was fitting then, more than a century later, that a group of folks came to learn the plight of these men, all while combating a global pandemic of their own. Led by Kathy Heicher of the Eagle County Historical Society and organized by Eagle Valley Land Trust, hikers enjoyed a breezy May morning up to the old mining winch and remnants of Leonard Horn’s Sunday services.

EVLT’s Community Land Connection Series (CLC) was designed to provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy our local conserved open spaces, learn about local history and ecology, and build confidence in accessing and exploring local protected lands. While the Horn Ranch Tour gives participants a glimpse of the past, other CLC events reveal the world of botany or the health of a watershed. Furthemore, EVLT hosts restoration projects to keep open spaces healthy and enjoyable.

EVLT is pleased to move forward with the Community Land Connection series this summer. In a time fraught with cancellations and delays, it is increasingly important to get out and explore the land around us. Eagle Valley Land Trust protects land in perpetuity, so why not create a history for later generations to enjoy? Learn more about upcoming CLC events at or email

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