Craig features a taste of the Old West


— Where to start on a history connoisseur's tour of Moffat County?

Yampa Avenue's Museum of Northwest Colorado could be your best bet, filled with bits of pieces of a colorful county's history.

With free admission daily, the museum prominently features a cowboy and gunfighter collection, the product of a 50-year preservation effort by a man named Bill Mackin. His gathered guns, gun leather, chaps, spurs, saddles and other knickknacks was the basis of a book by Mackin, "Cowboy and Gunfighter Collectibles."

Parts of Mackin's collection -- which takes up nearly all of the museum's second level -- have been featured in numerous other publications.

The museum features a host of other displays, including a rundown of Moffat County's history, an old schoolroom, exhibits on coal mining, farm implements, area railroad items, and rock and fossil displays.

The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

For westbound travelers on U.S. Highway 40, turn north on Yampa Avenue, drive one block and the museum building towers over the southwest corner of Yampa Avenue and Sixth Street.

While approaching Yampa Avenue along U.S. Highway 40, a storied train car named "Marcia" sits waiting for visitors.

Marcia was the private train car of David H. Moffat, who was largely responsible for bringing railroad transportation to Northwest Colorado. Built by Chicago's Pullman Company in 1906 at a cost of $24,568, Moffat named the car "Marcia" for his only child, Marcia Moffat McClure. The car was used mainly on David Moffat's inspection tours of construction work on the Moffat Railroad line to Northwest Colorado.

On the county's extreme western edge, Browns Park remains one of the most popular Moffat County destinations. The park is home to a 13,400-plus acre refuge serving as a nesting area for migratory waterfowl and home to other wildlife. Not to mention a hideout for the likes of outlaws Butch Cassidy, Tom Horne, Isom Dart and Annie Bassett.

The area is dotted with several abandoned cabins and home to Lodore Hall, built as a school in 1911 and still used as a community center. Nearby is the Two Bar Ranch, a collection of log buildings, corrals and sheds built with hand-hewn logs in 1887.

From Craig, motorists take U.S. Highway 40 west through Maybell and then north on state Highway 318 in order to reach Browns Park.

Just off of state Highway 318, a trip into scenic Irish Canyon offers more than just camping, hiking and climbing opportunities. At the canyon's entrance, an exhibit of ancient petroglyphs can be toured, while various other unmarked cultural sites can be found throughout the canyon.

Irish Canyon is accessible from state Highway 318, then north on Moffat County Road 10.

Travel farther west on Highway 318 past the Utah state line to catch the John Jarvie Homestead, a 35-acre spread settled in 1880 and once boasting a post office, trading post and river ferry. The site has been rebuilt to include Jarvie's original dugout home, a blacksmith shop and store, including a cemetery and museum.

Campsites and float boat access is also available.

The Jarvie Ranch is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in May

through October.

But before hitting Browns Park, consider stopping by the Johnson Homestead, which includes a restored brick home surrounded by a wrought-iron gate. The homestead -- owned by twice-former Colorado governor and U.S. Sen. Edwin C. Johnson -- is accessible about 20 miles west of Craig on U.S. Highway 40.


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