|1948 San Isabel National Forest map shows Colorado 76 coming southwest from Pueblo.|
|Bridge dated 1916 on Squirrel Creek Road, formerly Colorado 76, in Beulah.|
The first picnic and camping sites there had been designated in 1919. That was just five years after the southern Colorado Coalfield War that culminated in the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. It was two years after the Russian Revolution, which had segued into civil war, and one year after the end of World War One.
Private money — the San Isabel Public Recreation Association (SIPRA) — helped pay for the first improvements. Colorado Fuel & Iron, southern Colorado's industrial behemoth, with its coal mines, coke ovens, and steel mill, was the largest contributor. Wholesome outdoor recreation will lure its workers away from Red agitators.
There is a chance in this sort of [forest] camp to teach better Americanization of the people of foreign blood now living in our midst . . . these men will become better citizens and far less open to insidious suggestions of the radical agitator to strike at this land they have come to know and love.*
|Enjoying one of the new campgrounds on Squirrel Creek. Woman takes photo of men by fireplace. Check gen-u-wine ten-gallon hat on man in foreground.|
Many people stay or take meals at the privately operated Squirrel Creek Lodge, a two-story log structure in the center of the camping area. It stays popular until the World War II era, when it faces competition from the San Isabel lodge (which also began as a SIPRA project).
But Carhart's cool, winding creekside road is vulnerable. Rockslides menace it from the slopes above, and in 1947, a major flash flood rips down the narrow canyon, destroying all the little bridges, tearing out campsites, and wrecking many parts of the road.
|Squirrel Creek Lodge: A central room with two wings, front porch on the left.|
Dinner • Refreshment • Lodging • Souvenirs.
|Click to enlarge for photos of original lodge.|
The state builds a new highway from Beulah to Colorado 165. Formerly the Twelve-mile Road, it is now designated Colorado 78, and it takes a higher route up a ridge.
Its last nine miles are still gravel today, and according to a friend on the Custer County Road & Bridge Dept., are the last gravel stretch of a state highway. (Many state highways around here were gravel roads into the 1960s, when there was a big push to pave them.)
|Mentally remove the young trees along the trail, and there is the old Colorado 76.|
|Hiker at mortared wall that marked a scenic pull-off on Colorado 76.|
You, meanwhile . . . Dad is in the steelworkers' union and has a new car with a powerful V-8 engine. Mom doesn't wear those 1920s cloche hats anymore.
You can go anywhere — Yellowstone, Banff . . . no more chugging up Squirrel Creek Hill with the Model T threatening to boil over.
Remember those days when you were younger, when the Squirrel Creek campground was the oldest auto campground in the national forest?
Next: Part 2: Davenport, the "Retro" Campground
*Tom Wolf, Arthur Carhart: Wilderness Prophet (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2008), 55.