South Routt communities have family feel

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— Oak Creek is a very tight-knit town that develops closely around its main street. Perhaps it is the surrounding mountains that commanded the planners of old to focus development in the central area.

The compactness of downtown and the multitude of dining make for an easy tour that requires a quick stroll and a hungry belly.

But, like the othert South Routt communities, Oak Creek has history, most of which can still be seen today.

On Main Street, the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg has a space displaying artifacts from the local mines that attracted the first residents to the area.

After the historical and cultural lesson, visitors can choose from a vast array of dining options. It would seem with a town of just 800, dining would be limited. Not Oak Creek.

Folks can indulge in savory menus that cover everything from seafood to pizza to Mexican to Asian.

For a nightcap or just an after-meal treat, there are also several pubs. All of this can be experience in a short afternoon walk down Main Street in Oak Creek.

Stagecoach State Park

Stagecoach State Park is a big attraction with its scenic views and leisure activities that can be found nowhere else in South Routt County.

The 860-acre park is the home of a 780-acre reservoir, where visitors have the options to fish, swim, water ski, sail, windsurf, canoe or kayak. Land lovers can camp, hike, bike or picnic in the modern pavilion.

While touring the park, visitors can view the Flat Tops Mountains in the east and the towering Blacktail Mountain to the west, which boast some large elk herds, Park Ranger Mike Wall said.

In late winter, park rangers worked to clean and groom the hiking trails, and along with recent improvements to camping areas, Wall said he expects more people out this year.

"Last summer, electrical hookups were installed on some campsites, and a lot of people have said they liked that," Wall said. "This is a family-oriented park, and it seems that many of them like to have the luxuries of home."

The park also features a sandy beach with a volleyball area, which has also been improved with added sand and retaining walls.

Make no mistake, fishing is the biggest draw to Stagecoach State Park.

"Fishing is what brought me here," Wall said. "The fishing is just awesome -- the big fish."

Recently at the reservoir, a Colorado record was set for the largest pike ever caught, but wasn't weighed on an official scale, making the record unofficial. Still, Wall has the pictures to prove it.

For $5 per day, per vehicle, visitors can do it all and then stay overnight at a campsite for $7 to $18, depending on how important electricity is. Year-round passes are available for $50.

Phippsburg

The unincorporated town of Phippsburg is a reminder of the great size and importance the railroad business used to have.

The community is home of the switching yards that were built by the Denver Northwestern & Pacific Railway at the turn of the century.

Though trucking lines and highways have taken away from the importance of the railways, the railroads of the Yampa Valley are still used today to transport coal from coal mines scattered throughout the valley.

Yampa

Locally deemed as the "Gateway to the Flat Tops," the small town of Yampa has gone largely unchanged since its beginning.

Its main avenue through downtown is still unpaved and gives a true glimpse of 19th century architecture. At one end of the road sits Routt County's oldest continuously operated business, Montgomery's General Merchandise. Several other buildings like the Royal Hotel were built near the turn of the 20th century.

Yampa has a couple of hotels and a few restaurants to cater to those looking for a history lesson or getting prepared for an excursion into the Flat Tops Wilderness.

Toponas

The very small community of Toponas has mountainous views that inspired the first settlers there to name the area Egeria. Egeria was a mythical nymph who lived in a place of incredible beauty.

There isn't much to Toponas besides quaint country living. It has a post office and a small one-room library that's worthy of a tour or at

least a photo.

Routt National Forest

The Upper Yampa Valley hosts a wide variety of year around recreation. Summertime brings many visitors to the area to take in the spectacular beauty of the Routt-Medicine Bow National Forest which surrounds the the valley to the east and west. Visitors and locals enjoy the Flat tops Wilderness, where one can hike, bike or ride a horse for many miles, stopping along the way at the many lakes and meadows of wildflowers. Fishing enthusiasts find ideal spots in the high mountain lakes and reservoirs, and fabulous fishing in the Yampa River and the mighty Colorado River, along with the many tributaries.

Local history

Ute Indians following game trails were first to come to the valley. The Indians named the river "Yampa" after a turnip-like plant that grew along its banks. In the early 1800s came the ranchers. The valley was open and cattle roamed freely until cowboys gathered them in the fall, and moved them to a lower altitude for wintering. At the turn of the century, Oak Creek boomed because of five coal mines in the vicinity. There were more saloons in town than any other business, and gambling and gunfights were everywhere! The Yampa Valley attracted many colorful people. Although the 20th Century has come to the Yampa Valley, you can still see the remains of the "Old West" in the cattle drives through town and log cabins alongside the highway

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