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'Abandoned' doesn't mean forgotten

Nine Douglas County enclaves have lost town status but not attractions


Brett Hooper, proof that Deckers contains plenty of life (and - canned goods). - L'AURA MONTGOMERY
  • L'Aura Montgomery
  • Brett Hooper, proof that Deckers contains plenty of life (and canned goods).

Things you won't find in Deckers: A mall, a Wal-Mart, a fancy hotel, an amusement park, a gas station, a polling place.

The absence of that last item or to be more exact, elections or town government speaks to the reason why you also won't find an official town sign in Deckers.

Deckers, and eight other small towns in Douglas County, haven't had elections or maintained a government for five years. So in November 2007, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman granted the county's request to declare them abandoned.

"The towns just won't have local governance," says County Attorney Lance Ingalls. "They will be unincorporated Douglas County property that will use the county services, such as police and emergency services."

County spokespeople insist the spots won't disappear from new maps. The county may even erect some historical markers to celebrate their history.

"It doesn't mean we're driving them to Alaska, throwing them out the back door and driving back to Colorado," explains senior assistant county attorney Ron Clark.

Quite the contrary, in fact. In some of these places, just a couple dozen miles from Colorado Springs, you'll still find some classic Colorado-style getaways.

Hitting Deckers

On a spring Saturday morning, where Highway 67 meets County Road 126, the activity in the parking lot at the Deckers Country Store increases with the temperature. Cars and pickup trucks display the markings of fishermen and mountain bikers. Packs of Harleys rumble past, and locals stop in for coffees or six-packs.

Without big-city amenities (or even small-town comforts), Deckers still has a lot going for it. If there was a tourism director among its 4,000 or so residents, he or she could boast of world-class fly fishing, extensive hiking, forest-shaded cabins, camping, backpacking and the comforts and thrills of a dude ranch.

Most obviously marked by just a small shopping center, Deckers is surrounded on all sides by Pike National Forest. It sits at the edge of the Lost Creek Wilderness, and the South Platte River forms a boundary.

And if trees and water sound good to you, here's what you need to know to visit:

Don't forget to get gas. The closest pumps are in Woodland Park, south of here on Colorado Highway 67.

Though you can't fill your tank, you can fill your cooler. There's a general store, coffee shop, fishing shop and liquor store.

Cheesman Reservoir is a popular fishing spot. So is the South Platte River. Regulations vary along the river check with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (wildlife.state.co.us) for information about the stretch of river or reservoir you've got in your sights.

Lost Creek Wilderness is a popular hiking and backpacking spot. For information on it, with regulations and suggested hiking trails, go to coloradowilderness.com.

Pike National Forest (fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/recreation/camping/camp_guide.shtml) has several campgrounds in the area.

Lost Valley Ranch (lostvalleyranch.com) is a historic working dude ranch near Deckers. You can ride horseback, swim, fish, play tennis, hike or help the wranglers with their daily chores.

Camp Shady Brook (campshadybrook.org) is a YMCA camp that offers group camping, youth summer camp and retreats.

South Platte River Cabins (southplatterivercabins.com) rents cabins for $70 to $135 a night. (You can stay for a week and get two nights free.) Cabins include towels and grills.

Other spots

Additional Douglas County towns that have lost their official status can be intriguing summer destinations.

Westcreek is located just south of Deckers, on Highway 67. Keep your eyes open, because if you don't look for it, you'll miss the one small sign pointing you down off the highway.

Gold was discovered here in 1895, but life has slowed considerably since then. There are primitive campgrounds nearby, and a maze of four-wheel-drive roads that attract Jeep, ATV and dirt-bike owners. Watch for signs showing which roads are OK for motorized travel.

Greenland's also been "abandoned." In the late 1800s, large quantities of lumber, grain, potatoes, milk and rocks were shipped out of this town between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock. At one time, there were three stores, a hotel, a school, a saloon and a blacksmith shop.

Today you won't see any of these buildings. The first thing you'll see, assuming you're coming via Interstate 25, is probably the large green highway sign ... and then lots of grass. That's Greenland Ranch, a 21,000-acre ranch, the longest continuously operating cattle ranch in Colorado.

While the ranch is private, Greenland Open Space offers 3,000 acres open to recreation. The main trail connects the old town, where hikers might today see a large elk herd or a red-tailed hawk, to the town of Palmer Lake. It's a multi-use, non-motorized trail that begins south of Larkspur.

There's a lot going on in other spots, "abandoned" and otherwise, in Douglas County. For directions, maps, trails and other information, go to douglas.co.us.


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