Buy the DVD

Poncha Pass
Villa Groove

Royal Gorge
Moffat Route
Tennessee Pass
Marshall Pass
La Veta Pass
San Juan Area
San Luis Branch
Santa Fe Branch




San Luis Branch  
Alamosa to Marshall Pass

drg routes san luis 1.gif (907 bytes)


Back to Large Map...
Vicinity Map

This branch of the Denver and Rio Grande railroad traveled north and south across the vast flatness of the San Luis Valley in central Colorado. For over 100 miles the valley hardly changes elevation, much of which is over 7,500 feet above sea level. In the prehistoric past, a vast inland lake once covered the region. Most of it has dried today with just some salty swamp land remaining near the lower elevations. The east side of the valley is blocked by the Sangre de Cristo range and the west side by the San Juan mountains. This is the largest alpine valley in the world with over three million acres. 

Native Americans lived and traveled in the valley for thousands of years before the first Spanish settlers entered the region in the 1840's. The first water rights were recorded in the 1850's to divert water from the Rio Grande for irrigation. With the Homestead act of 1862, non Spanish settlers began to move into the area and established farming communities along the upper Rio Grande.

In 1877 the Rio Grande railroad built over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to Fort Garland and in 1888 they founded the town of Alamosa on the Rio Grande. The coming of the railroad brought new prosperity to the region.

Otto Mears moved into the Via Groove area in the late 1870's and established his first toll road over Poncha Pass. He went on to sell the roadway to the D&RG and they built tracks connecting the Marshall Pass route to Villa Grove over Poncha Pass in 1881. Eventually the railroad was continued south to Alamosa with the longest straight tangent track in Colorado.

The land in the San Luis Valley was never very fertile and was always difficult for growing crops. Never less, the settlers found the secret and still produce lettuce, carrots, peas, cauliflower and potatoes in abundance. 



Copyright 2005 Sandia Software All Rights Reserved