Eagle County boasts land that is perfectly suited for horse properties, and ranches can be found intermingled throughout the protected land of this vast and scenic state. Colorado is extremely diverse in terms of its topography, vegetation, population and climates.
Eagle County’s Farm and Ranch lifestyle
While wide open spaces, soaring mountains and rugged cowboys on horses may first come to mind when we think of being out West, there is much more to our beautiful state of Colorado, particularly in Vail Valley, which is world-renowned for its elite ski resorts, golf courses and luxury real estate.
Yet in the midst of it all, there is still a great deal of land that's perfectly suitable for horse properties and ranches found throughout the state. Lending to the state's distinctiveness are the altitude and mountains that play a unique role in the weather conditions experienced throughout the year. Those in the market for larger pieces of property should consider several things: the type of activities you enjoy, how you are going to use the land, the kind of climate you prefer and how close you want to be to the rest of Eagle County.
Eagle County attracts outdoor lovers of all kinds, from those who want to experience the best skiing and most spectacular scenery to those who prefer a taste of country with horse farm and ranch living. In fact, according to a government study that looked at physical activity county by county across the U.S., Colorado was found to be the most active state in the nation, with Eagle County the second most active county with plenty to do outdoors, from the slopes and golf courses to mountain biking, trail running, horseback riding and more.
The Vail Valley has it all with both mountainous and flat land. Vail Valley is one of Eagle County's most desirable destinations, with an exceptional reputation for both its skiing and resort lifestyle. However outside of the major resorts you'll find mostly rural living, mainly Gentleman Ranches. Weather-wise, the Colorado resort of Vail averages about 300 inches of snow in winter, and Eagle County overall averages 54 and 11 inches of rain per year. In summer the average temperature is 73 degrees F, and 34 degrees F in the winter. But Colorado in general is a very sunny state that averages 300 days of sunshine a year!
Who we are
Named for the Eagle River, Eagle County is the 14th most populous of the 64 counties of Colorado. According to the 2010 census, the county population was 52,197, and its total area is 1,691.80 square miles, of which 1,687.88 square miles (or 99.77%) is land and 3.93 square miles (or 0.23%) is water.
Eagle County includes Beaver Creek, Avon, Gypsum, Leadville, Minturn, Red Cliff, Vail, most of Basalt, the unincorporated area of Eagle County, and the unincorporated area of Lake County, Colorado. Much of the county is taken up by White River National Forest, and much of the rest is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Interstate 70 crosses the county from east to west. The Eagle River rises in the southeastern part of Eagle County. It receives Gore Creek at Dowds Junction, and joins the Colorado River in the west. Fryingpan River and the Roaring Fork River intersect the southwest corner of the county.
In terms of history, Eagle County has an interesting one. The Ute Indians claimed its lands for summer hunting and fishing grounds before Europeans explored the area. The first reliable account of European presence in the Eagle River Valley was in 1840 when Kit Carson guided the Fremont party through the region. Fortune hunters and settlers scoured the state, striking lead carbonate ore in Leadville in 1874. The strike brought many prospectors to the valley, and by 1879 a permanent camp was established and the town of Red Cliff was born. Eagle County was carved from Summit County in 1883 and Red Cliff, named for the surrounding red quartzite cliffs, was the first county seat. The county government moved west to the town of Eagle in 1921.
The evolution of Vail from a quiet sheep pasture to an international resort is credited to the famous 10th Mountain Division ski troops who were introduced to the valley while training at Camp Hale in the 1940s. Following World War II, a group of former Army buddies returned to the Gore Creek Valley to fulfill their collective dream...to develop a ski resort. Vail later emerged as a ski giant and the county has flourished ever since. The Colorado Ski Museum, located at the top of the Vail Transportation Center, documents this great skiing heritage with photographs and memorabilia. The Eagle County Historical Society Museum is located in Chambers Park in Eagle and documents the history of the Eagle River Valley from the early Native Americans to the families living in the county today.
The town of Avon, which sits at the base of Beaver Creek, is also intriguing in terms of its evolution. Both Avon and Beaver Creek were settled by the same family. With its location in the stunning Rocky Mountains of Colorado along the scenic Eagle River, Avon today serves as a gateway to the world-class Beaver Creek Resort and is eight miles west of world-famous Vail. It is a home rule municipality in Eagle County, with the county seat located 20 miles to the west in the Town of Eagle.
The early Eagle River Valley, including the area that was to become Avon, was first inhabited by the Utes, great Native American horsemen who spent winters in the mild climate to the west and returned to, in their language, “the shining mountains” each summer to hunt mule deer, elk and the great buffalo. The earliest Anglo-Americans visiting the area were probably hearty Mountain Men trapping beaver to supply fur for city folks' fashionable top hats.
Settlers arrived in the early 1880's, including George A. Townsend who "took up a homestead" of 160 acres, the legal limit, and built a house at the confluence of the Eagle River and Beaver Creek. Townsend is said to have fancied the name Avondale for the area. At some point, Avon became its official name. Early pioneers, including Townsend, grew hay and raised cattle to feed hungry miners in nearby Red Cliff. Metcalf and Oscar Traer rode together to Central City to witness each other's paperwork “proving up” their respective claims under the federal Homestead Act. Homesteaders also worked together to dig essential irrigation ditches, sometimes using dynamite and a horse-drawn scoop called a fresno, some of which still supply irrigating water to Avon today. As early as July 4, 1891, the Eagle County Times reported “Eagle County is a good place to visit, a better place to settle in, and the best place in the state for capital seeking investment.”
Avon ultimately turned from a lettuce town into a resort town. In the 1920’s, head lettuce was the crop of choice in Avon and neighboring Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch. Box cars stood at the Avon Depot, loaded with ice from the Minturn ice house (the ice had been cut the preceding winter at Pando up near Tennessee Pass) and readied for freshly cut lettuce heads delivered in crates by farmers and their ranch hands including wives. These refrigerated rail cars shipped Avon crops as far as the east coast providing fresh lettuce weeks after the nation's standard lettuce harvest was gone. Through the years, Avon land produced cattle, hay, potatoes, peas, oats and, starting in the 1940's, sheep. By this time most of Avon's homesteading families were long gone but descendants of William Nottingham had stayed on and owned and operated nearly all of the land called Avon.
By 1972, Vail had become one of the top destination ski resorts in the country, and pressure mounted “down valley” in Avon for ranch land to be developed. One branch of the Nottingham family sold its controlling interest in the land to Benchmark Companies and the Town of Avon was incorporated on February 24, 1978. The new town was comprised of the land in present day central and western Avon including the area that soon became Nottingham Park.
After 10 years, in 1988, Avon had a permanent population of 1,500 people. Another branch of the Nottingham's sold its land to companies owned by developer Magnus Lindholm, the area encompassing present day eastern Avon and the northern hillside. Residents continued to move to Avon and, in 1998, Avon was home to over 3,000 residents. As of the last census, Avon's population had doubled to 6,727 people living in 2,317 households.
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