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The Historic North End Of The Estes Valley

north-endThe North End is defined as the portion of the Estes Valley beginning at the northern boundaries of the Town, extending north to the switchbacks to Glen Haven, and bordered on the east and west by the National Park and National Forest lands.

Before the 1850s, only occasional itinerant trappers hunting beaver visited the area. After that, the part-time North End residents were Indians—primarily Arapahoe and Ute. Their teepee poles and circles of fire rocks were still identifiable into the early 1900s. In 1859, Joel Estes, for whom the Valley is named, came to the valley in an unsuccessful search for gold. Then, in 1872, the Fourth Earl of Dunraven visited the Estes Valley, and, surrounded by both the magnificent scenery as well as the abundant herds of elk, deer and bighorn sheep, made an ultimately futile attempt to make 5,000 acres of the valley, including the inviting meadows of the North End, his own personal hunting preserve.

Rev. William McCreery homesteaded along Devil’s Gulch Road in 1876. That cabin remains, and the sixth generation of the McCreery family still lives in the North End.

Three large ranches called the North End’s vast meadows home—the first was the MacGregor Ranch. Denver lawyer, Alexander MacGregor homesteaded 160 acres in 1874, and began a cattle ranch which would eventually grow to over 2,000 acres. In 1876, the MacGregor Ranch even served as Estes Park’s first post office. The family maintained a working cattle ranch for nearly 100 years until the last MacGregor, Muriel, died in 1970. Since then, the MacGregor Charitable Trust has operated the property, not only as an active cattle ranch, but also as a youth education center and a public museum.

The second, the McGraw Ranch, began in 1884, and eventually grew to over 1,000 acres. By 1936, the McGraw family converted the property into a dude ranch. That same summer, Presidential candidate Alf Landon used the ranch as his campaign headquarters. In 1988, the National Park Service purchased the ranch for use as a research center.

The third was the Storer Ranch, begun as a cattle ranch in 1897. It would grow to over 2,000 acres with pastures reaching across the extensive meadows to the northeast. The ranch house still exists on North Lane off Devil’s Gulch Road.

Shep Husted, who originally homesteaded here in 1896, built the Rustic Hotel in the northern part of the North End in 1900 as a tourist hotel. It sat on 200 acres and contained a main lodge, 10 cabins, a tennis court and a livery stable. Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t successful, and over the years had a succession of owners, including Julian Livingston. In 1935, the property, re-named the H Bar G Ranch, again operated as a guest ranch. Later, it became a camp for girls and then a youth hostel. The Livingston family, who has held the property since the 1930s, still own it.

The very popular Lazy B Chuckwagon supper and western show was located on Dry Gulch Road. The Lazy B began in the early 1960s and continued for over 40 summers. In addition to a delicious western-style barbeque, guests were treated to sing-alongs and Indian dancers.

The North End Property Owners Association (NEPOA) began on an informal basis in 1953 when several property owners, under the leadership of Frank McGraw, combined their efforts to keep the north end of the Estes Valley free of commercial endeavors, and determined to work closely with Larimer County to this end.

NEPOA was officially formed in 1972. That first meeting was held at the historic H Bar G Ranch, under the leadership of Lou Livingston. The agenda included incorporating the organization and writing by-laws. Their biggest concern at that meeting, however was… pine beetle infestation! Before they adjourned, they formulated a Mission Statement, much of which is still used today: “To proactively protect the beauty and ecology of the North End, and to make every effort to preserve it as a low- density residential area.”

In 1996, a Comprehensive, or Master, Plan was adopted by residents throughout the entire Valley. It states in part, “The North End is visible from a number of locations within the Estes Valley, and the perceived openness of this area, if lost, will affect the image of the entire valley.” This Comprehensive Plan forms the basis of the Estes Valley Development Code.

NEPOA, now an active informational organization representing over 200 property owners, has, over the years, dealt with a myriad of critical issues: spot zoning, pine beetle infestation, hunters trespassing on private property as well as defeating proposals for, in turn, a cemetery, an airplane landing strip, a radio tower, a golf course, and being annexed into the Town. They also convinced the County to bury the power lines to Glen Haven and to regularly spray weeds throughout the area. In 1990, because the Department of Wildlife designated the North End’s meadows as critical elk habitat, NEPOA was instrumental in replacing 8 miles of barbed wire with smooth wire fencing. In 1992, ground was broken for the Eagle Rock School off Dry Gulch Road. And, in 2005, largely due to NEPOA’s vocal opposition, the Sanitation District removed a large dynamite storage bin and finally stopped dumping sludge on their open property off Devil’s Gulch Road.

Moving now into the 21st Century, NEPOA, remaining true to their founders’ original values, are actively dedicated to protecting the beauty and ecology of the north end of the Estes Valley—for themselves as well as for the generations to come.

NEPOA is presently compiling a scrapbook of folks’ wonderful memories of the North End to be placed in their official archives. If you have special memories, please contact NEPOA Secretary, Betty Hull, at PO Box 3532, Estes Park, CO 80517 or jbhull@aol.com to share yours.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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