Yes, that’s a town — by 9-0 vote |

Yes, that’s a town — by 9-0 vote

A handful of cabins sit on the historic Carbonate townsite high in the Flat Tops north of Glenwood Springs, where property owners voted Tuesday to continue official incorporation for the town.
Courtesy |


Information about Carbonate, including photos, area maps and plats, can be found on this website established by the property owners.

The original Garfield County seat, Carbonate, will remain an officially incorporated town after Tuesday’s election, the idea being that the historic mining settlement situated high in the Flat Tops might someday have regular inhabitants again.

A dozen property owners who have a share in the approximately one-square-mile townsite that was officially incorporated in 1883 recently petitioned the court for an election asking if Carbonate should continue as a legal subdivision of the state of Colorado.

By a 9-0 vote among those who returned their ballots by the Tuesday deadline, Carbonate will continue as an incorporated town.

What exactly that means remains to be seen.

“We’re trying to make a town out of it, and do some marketing to get some interest up there again,” said Don Sillivan, a Glenwood Springs real estate agent who is one of the Carbonate owners.

Whether it means electing an official town council and beginning to operate as an actual town government is something that will need to be discussed, he said.

For now, the existing owners, most of whom actually reside in the Glenwood Springs area, have some small cabins where a bustling mining camp once existed in the late 1880s. It now sits as a private in-holding within the White River National Forest, just outside the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Garfield County real estate records show a full street grid system with 25-foot lots, although no actual streets exist on the rocky high-alpine tundra above 11,000 feet elevation.

“You can’t really build on that, and that’s not our intention,” Sillivan said. “If we were to do something, we would have to sell them in blocks of lots. It’s got to be done right, or we won’t do it.”

Carbonate is located about 13 miles due north of Glenwood Springs near Heart Lake — as the crow, or the airplane, flies. At least one of the owners, longtime Glenwood Springs resident and real estate developer Wayne Rudd, is a pilot, and has landed his small “Cub” plane in the area.

Otherwise, ground access is via the Coffee Pot Springs Road up Deep Creek outside of Dotsero, or, for the adventuresome four-wheeler, up Transfer Trail from Glenwood Springs. The area is accessible only by snow machine in the winter.

According to historical accounts on file with the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood Springs, the area became inhabited after a pair of prospectors from Leadville staked claims on carbonate deposits there in 1879.

At the same time, a log fort, called Fort Defiance, was built at the head of Wagon Gulch near the current Glenwood Springs townsite in order to provide protection against the native people who already inhabited the area.

“Hundreds of miners poured into Fort Defiance, and from that time on both exploration and settlement was rapid,” according to the historical account. “In April 1883, Carbonate City was incorporated and roads were constructed to ore deposits at the location.”

Despite its remote location high above the river valley, Carbonate became the first county seat of Garfield County for a brief period of time. Not long after that, however, a new townsite at the confluence of the Grand and Roaring Fork rivers that had been filed by James Landis in 1881 became the new county seat. Glenwood Springs was officially incorporated in 1885.

Another of the current Carbonate land owners is Glenwood Springs attorney Tim Thulson.

“It’s where I’d like to end up having a residence, for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “We just wanted to put the question to the owners whether we wanted to continue with the incorporation.”

As for what comes next, “we’re still mulling our way through that,” he said.

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