Carbondale ranch history celebrated with new interpretive trail |

Carbondale ranch history celebrated with new interpretive trail

One of the 10 interpretive history signs is installed recently at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale as part of the RVR History Trail project.
River Valley Ranch/Courtesy photo

Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch and the Carbondale Historical Society have collaborated to create the new RVR History Trail in celebration of the history of the land that is now home to the RVR Golf Course and residential neighborhoods.

The RVR History Trail is a 2.7-mile loop that includes 10 descriptive panels, each 21-by-28 inches, mounted along a walking path that winds through the RVR community.

The panels combine to tell the story of how the land evolved from its home to the nomadic Ute Indian tribes in the 1400s, to the European settlers and homesteaders in the 1800s, to a working ranch in the middle 20th century, and its eventual golf course and residential development in the late 1990s.

“It’s a unique outdoor history lesson, designed to acknowledge the rich history of this land,” states a joint news release from the Historical Society and the RVR Master Association.

A grand opening and ribbon-cutting is planned for Oct. 10, including trail tours for Carbondale school children and their parents, guided by Historical Society Vice President Sue Gray.

“The history of RVR is intertwined with the history of Carbondale, and of the Roaring Fork Valley,” Gray said in the release. “I learned so much doing research on this project, and am excited to share that knowledge with all who want to visit the RVR History Trail. This project is a real community treasure.”

Potato harvest at the Holland ranch circa early 1900s.
Carbondale Historical Society archives/Courtesy photo

The 1,200-acre property was for many years known as the Pleasant View Ranch, considered one of the most productive farms and ranches in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to the release.

The Holland and Thompson families owned the ranch for more than 100 years, followed by another landowner who then sold it to the eventual developers of the 550-home golf course neighborhood.

During the development project’s planning, developer Gerald Hines expressed a desire to honor the heritage of the Pleasant View Ranch. Some of the original houses, sheds and the Old Thompson Barn were preserved and moved to their current locations within the development.

One of those log buildings was the genesis for the RVR History Trail, said Gary Lesser, president of the RVR Master Association board.

“In the summer of 2020, as I walked through RVR every day doing rehab from hip replacement surgery, I kept seeing these old buildings, and wondered — what is this? Where did it come from?” Lesser said. “So, I got in touch with Sue at the Historical Society, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

The History Trail begins in Orchard Park, owned by the town of Carbondale and maintained by the Master Association, at the intersection of Crystal Canyon Drive and Crystal Bridge Drive. The trail takes about two hours to fully explore, either by walking or riding a bicycle.

There is no entry fee to take self-guided tours on the trail.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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