There are many wonderful things to see and do in the Eastern Plains of Colorado, but without a shadow of a doubt the best parts are the towns and the people that live in them. They are proud of their communities and their heritage. Take time to visit these communities. It is worth the visit.
Known as the Queen City of the Plains, Sterling is located in Logan County in the Northeastern corner of Colorado on Interstate 76. Having the largest population, estimated at approximately 14,777, of those communities in Colorado east of Pueblo, Sterling is the regional shopping hub for Northeast Colorado and Southwest Nebraska.
The first inhabitants of the plains were the Indians – Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfoot, Sioux, Kiowa and Pawnee. They survived and even thrived. The first non-Indians were French-Canadian trappers who passed through the area on their way to the beaver-rich foothills of the Rockies. They stayed only as long as there was a demand for the pelts, and then moved on.
Then came the gold and between 1862-1868, thousands of brave and adventurous people pressed across the unmarked prairie in search of gold and silver in the snow-capped Rockies. They traveled on a branch of the Oregon Trail known as the Overland Trail. As soon as the Union Pacific Railroad came through, Sterling was built up and became the center of commerce for the area. Built on the backs of pioneering men and women who bravely stopped their wagons along Colorado’s once-barren high plains, Sterling and Logan County still embrace the spirit of the Old West.
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The town was named to honor the soldiers that served at the military fort located approximately where the hospital sits today. The fort, built to protect emigrants and mail routes, was built in 1864. The fort was called many names but was finally renamed for Colonel Christopher A. Morgan, who died in 1866. The fort had upwards of 1200 soldiers and multiple companies from cavalry and infantry regiments had been stationed on the bluff overlooking the South Platte River.
Fort Morgan, which lies on the old Overland Trail, offers a good look at the agricultural history of the state. A sugar beet factory was built in 1906 and became the economic engine for the area. The sugar factory, well over 100 year old, is the only operating plant remaining in Colorado.
Fort Morgan exemplified the pioneer spirit of the times. Today, there are no visible remains of the military fort. However, the city is remembered as the boyhood home of Glenn Miller and is recognized as a commercial and retail hub for all of Northeastern Colorado. Now, as then, farming and ranching remain. Agricultural industry, oil and natural gas exploration, and energy production represent the "new" frontiers.
There is a lot to see in Fort Morgan. There's the Fort Morgan Museum, which tracks the area's history from the Pawnee and other Native Americans to the settlement by farmers and ranchers who found the plains good for grazing and raising wheat. If you're a bridge buff, be sure to stop and admire the Rainbow Arch Bridge just north of town. It's a rare example of this style of bridge architecture, and spans the Platte River. Or take a walking tour of historical downtown Fort Morgan to imagine what live was like in the days of yore.
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As the gateway to the Pawnee National Grasslands, New Raymer is a small town located in the eastern plains for Colorado, 109 miles northeast of Denver.
Agricultural communities have formed the backbone of Colorado’s Eastern Plains since the late-1880s. The towns and cities have endured droughts, harsh winters, relentless winds, population changes and economic depressions. But the one thing that has remained constant is the strength of the communities and the perseverance of the people. The town of New Raymer anchored by its Main Street, Centre Avenue, is no different.
After the Enlarged Homestead Act in 1909, New Raymer saw a boom with new stores, shops, hotels and businesses creating a thriving downtown core along Centre Avenue. The town population declined in the 1930s due to drought and economic depression. This decline continued into the next decades, and by the 1960s most of the businesses along Centre Avenue had closed. Despite these changes, New Raymer remained a gathering place for the surrounding population. Descendants of the early pioneers that settled New Raymer still reside in the nearby rural areas. They continue to farm and ranch in the area, and come to town to meet for church, school and social activities. Many of the families have known one another for generations, and the community hopes to keep these stories and relationships alive by revitalizing the downtown core.
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Grover is a classic eastern-Colorado grassland community. Located about 90 miles northeast of Denver, the small town features open spaces and ranches spread far and wide. It is also home to the Grover Depot Museum, the building is a rare Colorado example of a first generation, two-story railroad depot and may well be the only surviving example of its type in Colorado. It represents the important role played by rail transportation in the founding, growth, and long-term survival of many Colorado agricultural towns such as Grover.
Grover is listed on some Ghost town websites however the town has a population of about 150.
As the largest of the tiny prairie towns in Weld County, Ault lies north of Greeley on U.S. 85. Named for Alexander Ault, a grain merchant who saved town farmers from bankruptcy by buying wheat during difficult times, Ault remains true to its frontier and farming roots.
Today, Ault remains an important crossroads for transporting goods and services but is no longer heavily reliant on agriculture alone. Instead, the town has developed a variety of businesses and services such as banking, insurance, retail, and the Highland School District headquarters amongst many others. The community has also transformed into a bedroom community for residents working in Cheyenne, Fort Collins and Greeley, all of which are less than 45 minutes from town.
Ault's nickname is "A Unique Little Town".