Early homesteaders settled in the area that became Carbondale just a few years after Colorado achieved statehood on August 1, 1876. Situated at the base of the majestic 12,953 foot Mount Sopris (so named after politician and prospector Captain Richard Sopris who first explored the area in 1860), the region was rich in wildlife, silver and coal. Hunting, ranching, farming and mining presented abundant opportunities to those with a pioneering spirit. By 1881 twenty families established themselves in the fertile valley at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers. The natural resources of the area not only supported the local population, they also created a base of commerce by providing food and supplies to a growing number of communities in the Roaring Fork Valley.
By 1887 Carbondale was a railroad depot with multiple railroad companies laying new track throughout the region. As a result, the population steadily expanded.. In 1888 the town was officially incorporated and, by then, it had a newspaper, a commercial core with a general store, a bank, several saloons and additional building sites.
Carbondale did not escape the economic downturn that followed the silver panic of 1893. It was potato farming that saved Carbondale’s economy. In large part the potato crops were produced on the vast high mesa north of the town. The soil there was perfect for producing an abundance of high quality potatoes.
This area had attracted immigrants from many lands – Ireland, Nova Scotia, Italy and France – and those who came from Missouri named it after there home state.
The decades following the Great Depression saw a shift in Carbondale as ranching and mining took a larger part in the viability of the economy. And, by the 1960’s, the growth of the ski industry in Aspen further diversified Carbondale’s economic life as the impact of tourism and the resulting demand for goods and services was felt throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
Facts: Population 6,600; elevation 6,181 feet; land area 2.0 square miles
Carbondale is not just another small Colorado mountain community located in a beautiful setting. It is rated to be one of the best towns in the country in which to work and play. Outdoor recreational activities abound with cycling, fly-fishing, golfing, hiking, skate-boarding, kayaking, rafting, cross-county skiing, snowmobiling and more. Alpine skiing and snowboarding is just 30 miles away at Aspen/Snowmass’s four-mountain winter playground.
Carbondale is a town that marches to its own drummer. It has maintained its unique character defined by a sense of social democracy in a valley that has witnessed a tidal wave of upscale development. This is a diverse town that fosters all creative art forms, is environmentally conscious and has a strong sense of community. Excellent restaurants, a variety of locally owned shops, several galleries, an array of public art and performance venues line downtown streets.
The people of Carbondale keep several long-standing traditions alive as evidenced by the annual Mountain Fair in July, started in 1972, and Potato Days, a festival that pays homage to the banner crop of 1909. Many other local events take place throughout the year, including a weekly summer rodeo.
Modest homes and condominiums are within a short walking distance to downtown. Within a few miles lie two extensive residential golf communities, Aspen Glen and River Valley Ranch, each featuring luxury homes with access to a variety of on-site amenities. Beyond those houses, on the north side of Highway 82 and several miles above Carbondale overlooking the majestic Mt. Sopris is Missouri Heights.
Many properties in Missouri Heights are a haven for horse lovers who seek wide-open spaces and a rural more tranquil environment with easy access to city life.
What was once home to ranches and farms is now mostly land subdivided into several developments of large homes with generous acreage and spectacular views of the entire Elk Mountain Range.