La Veta and Cuchara history

Cuchara Valley in southern Colorado
The Cuchara Valley, shrouded in mist, is noted for its volcanic extrusions. | Photo by Tee Poole / flickr

Staff writer

The town of La Veta dates back to 1862, when Fort Francisco was built. Col. John Francisco came to the valley in 1840 from Fort Garland, building his plaza as a ranch headquarters. The adobe fort, which still exists, was also the railroad station and the post office at various times.

The railroad came through in 1876 and the town was renamed La Veta, Spanish for “the vein.” Experts disagree on the origins of the name. The most popular theory is that it comes from the long rock dikes that spider out from the peaks. No gold was found in the immediate area, although coal was not far away and it is still mined nearby.

Up the hill a few miles, Cuchara started out as a potato farming community. By the early 1900s the area became popular for camping and hiking. In 1908, George Mayes, who came to the Valley for his health, founded Cuchara Camps as a summer health resort. Although early visitors stayed in tents, cabins started to appear a few years later.

Cuchara Mountain Resort, a ski area above Cuchara on Baker Mountain at 9,200 feet, opened in 1981. Initially known as Panadero, the ski area operated only sporadically under different owners, primarily Texans, until finally closing in 2000.

Some local residents have created a recreation district in Huerfano County, hoping to sell bonds and implement a $14 million plan to revitalize the resort and operate it as a ski area. The U.S. Forest Service, however, has said they “do not intend” to have a ski area there.