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History of Lake County

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Lake County was formed in the Colorado Territory in 1861.  It stretched west to the Utah boarder and encompassed nearly 1/8 of Colorado.  By 1879, a dozen separate counties were sliced out, leaving Lake the fourth smallest Colorado counties. It was named for the large, natural Twin Lakes, which have since been dammed and expanded twice.

The county seat moved four times, following the most prosperous of the gold camps.  It moved permanently to Leadville, elevation 10,000’, in 1879 during the silver boom.

Lake County’s economy has suffered a series of mining busts: first gold, than silver, and finally molybdenum.  The Climax Molybdenum mine shut down in 1982 and didn’t reopen until 2012.

Recreation is the other Lake County economic staple.  Excursion trains from the Front Range brought tourists as soon as the railroads opened in 1880.  Each summer, mountain climbers converge on the highest mountain in Colorado, and second highest in the contiguous US: Mt Elbert (14,443’).  Eight more fourteeners are in Lake County or on the county line.

Lake County even owns a ski area.  Ski Cooper, 10 miles north on Highway 24, was part of the Camp Hale army training grounds for the 10th Mountain Division.

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Historic red school house in Leadville, CO

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