Garden Park, a classic example of a fertile down-thrown valley, lies at the base of, and is surrounded by, uplifed rocks of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. Four Mile Creek runs through Garden Park and provides a water source for irrigated agriculture. Irrigation capability made Garden Park and attractive location for settlers who took advantage of free land offered by the Homestead Act of the post-Civil War period. By 1900, over 60 families made a living in agriculture by providing produce for export to the mines in Cripple Creek and Victor. Investors from Canon City built a toll road that today is part of the Gold Belt Tour and is known as the Shelf Road. The Shelf Road, along with the Florence and Cripple Creek Railway (now the Phantom Canyon Road), were two of the three major supply routes to the mining district.
For a period of 25 to 30 years following the discovery of gold in Cripple Creek, Garden Park operated as a prosperous agricultural community, but the downturn of the fines following WWI and the end of the Gold Standard resulted in a major loss of market for Garden Park produce. As a result, homesteaders sold off land and water rights and left the valley. A few individuals consolidated the 60+ homesteads into a handful of moderate to large ranches that persisted until recently. However, starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these ranches, in turn, began to be sold off and broken up in the form of subdivisions with home sites of approximately 35 acres. Once again, Garden Park has approximately 60 families, but most of them are not practicing agriculturalists. Many are retirees, and with 35 acre homes sites, the potential population density is 4 to 8 times what it was in 1890, when homesteads were 160 to 320 acres.
While visiting Garden Park, be sure to stop at the historic Garden Park School (1895), constructed of adobe bricks made from local soil. You may also wish to take a short walk to one of several famous sites where dinosaur fossils have been discovered or scale the cliffs of The Bank climbing area.
Listen to a narrative about Garden Park: