San Juan National Forest


Prehistoric hunters and gatherers arrived in the San Juans near the end of the last ice age, roughly 8,000 years ago. The Ancestral Puebloan people appeared in the Four Corners about 2,000 years ago. They built elaborate pueblo villages and cliff dwellings in the lower elevations and traded with surrounding nomadic tribes, some of whom moved into the area after the Ancestral Puebloans disappeared about 700 years ago.

The first Europeans arrived in a Spanish expedition led by Vasquez Coronado in 1541. The Spanish explored, prospected, traded with the Indians, and gave enduring names to many landmarks. Fur trappers and traders followed the explorers into the mountains.

Indian reservations were established in the mid-1800s. Mining activity began to boom by the 1870s. Major settlement followed an 1873 treaty with the Ute Indians.

Ranching, farming, and lumbering developed to support the mining industry. When mining later declined, these became the major economic base. Today recreation and tourism play a major role in the area's economy, and oil and gas production is on the increase.

The San Juan National Forest was created by presidential proclamation June 3, 1905. Most of its present boundaries were established in 1947. The Forest includes about 1.9 million acres in nine Colorado counties.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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