South Routt Preliminary census numbers show populations in Oak Creek and Yampa steadily increasing from the 1990 numbers, but both towns' populations still aren't as high as census numbers reported in 1980.
Oak Creek's population in 2000 was estimated to be 849 people and Yampa is 443 strong. In 1990, Oak Creek was calculated at 673, showing a 26.2 percent increase and Yampa was 317, which shows a 39.7 percent increase.
However, in 1980, census reports showed populations in the two towns to be even higher than in 2000, with Oak Creek at 929 and Yampa at 472. The population in Hayden fluctuates similarly, from 1,720 in 1980, to 1,444 in 1990, to 1,634 in 2000.
Longtime Yampa resident and town trustee Dick Rudeen said he attributes the population changes in south Routt to be directly related to the available work in the county.
In the 1980s, he explained, coal mines were laying off employees and shutting down, which then affected the railroad industry, which also employed many south Routt residents.
"A lot of those guys then moved out. We had a lot of empty houses here during that time," Rudeen said.
County Commissioner Dan Ellison said in the 1980s, coal mining did slow down.
Sun Coal, which Ellison worked for, closed in '81. But construction work at the power plants in Hayden and later in Craig, which many people relied on for jobs, also ended during the '80s. It stimulated some movement of people out of the county, he said.
As far as Twenty Mile Coal Company goes, there was a one- to two-year period in the early '80s when that company couldn't offer jobs, company spokesman Ron Spangler said.
At that time the company's Cypress Mine closed.
Then it took a couple of years for the company to move the operation underground, which resulted in Twenty Mile Coal Company's current mining operation.
In Oak Creek, longtime local Rita McNutt said mining was important in the area, but construction work also was strong at the power plants and at the Steamboat ski resort.
The town also had another draw to it in the late '70s and early '80s, Oak Creek Town Clerk Nancy Crawford said.
"It was kind of a haven for hippies," she said.
McNutt said she agreed, and recalled a large group of young people in the town, which gained Oak Creek some national notoriety.
"Rolling Stone (magazine) reported it as a place where the hippies were going to drop out," she said.
Though the sub culture did exist, she said it was equally dispersed with the blue-collar crowd.
"It was really a booming community then," she said.
There were more houses in town and more business downtown, McNutt said.
But with work opportunities declining in the county, the population in south Routt inevitably plummeted to the 1990 figures.
Now, Rudeen said of Yampa, all the houses that were empty in the late '80s and into the '90s are full and he points to Steamboat Springs as the reason.
"The things that has really changed in the last five years is that we've become a bedroom community to Steamboat Springs," he said.
Rudeen said the price of living in the resort town is what drives people who work in Steamboat to come south to find a place to live.
"A blue-collar man can't afford a house in Steamboat,"