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The City of Glenwood Springs is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Garfield County, Colorado, United States. Glenwood Springs is located at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River, threading together the Roaring Fork Valley and a series of smaller towns up and down the Colorado River. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 9,614.
Glenwood Springs is best known as a historic destination for vacationers with diverse natural amenities, most particularly hot springs, but gentrification and development have introduced modern cultural, dining, and recreational activities as well. It is also home to two of the campuses and the administrative offices of the Colorado Mountain College system.
Glenwood Springs in 2015 was named the "Most Vibrant Small Town Arts Environment in the United States" by Southern Methodist University and the 5th Best Place to Live in America by Outside magazine. It was named the "Most Fun Town in America" by Rand McNally and USA Today in 2011.
Glenwood Springs was originally known as "Defiance", a name sometimes still used by local teams or businesses. Defiance was established in 1883, a camp of tents, saloons, and brothels with an increasing amount of cabins and lodging establishments. It was populated with the expected crowd of gamblers, gunslingers, and prostitutes. Town Founder Isaac Cooper's wife Sarah was having a hard time adjusting to the frontier life and, in an attempt to make her environment somewhat more comfortable, persuaded the founders to change the name to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, after her beloved hometown of Glenwood, Iowa.
The location of Glenwood Springs, as well as gaining a stop on the railroad, rapidly made it a center of commerce in the area. The city has seen famous visitors, including President Teddy Roosevelt, who spent an entire summer vacation living out of the historic Hotel Colorado. Doc Holliday, a wild west legend from the O.K. Corral gunfight, spent the final months of his life in Glenwood Springs and is buried in the town's original Pioneer Cemetery above Bennett Avenue. Kid Curry is buried in the same location. Infamous serial killer Ted Bundy was imprisoned in the Glenwood Springs jail until he escaped on the night of December 30, 1977, an escape which went undetected for 17 hours.
Glenwood Springs was one of the first places in the United States to have electric lights. The original lighting was installed in 1897 inside of the Fairy Caves in Iron Mountain. Later, a dam was built in Glenwood Canyon, providing water for the Shoshone power plant. The plant began producing power on May 16, 1909, and retains the largest and oldest water rights to the Colorado River, the "Shoshone Call", which is now far more valuable for the protection of Colorado River water rather than the minimal electricity produced.
Glenwood Springs is located in the narrow mountain valleys that host the confluence of the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River. The surrounding terrain is steeply contoured on all sides, with numerous caves to be found. Extensive geothermal resources exist in the area, most famously manifest in the local hot springs, but also evidenced through other features such as the Dotsero maar. Occasional proposals to leverage the geothermal energy for other purposes arise. Glenwood Springs has experienced several significant mudslides throughout its history, a threat mitigated somewhat by public works.
Glenwood Springs is one of the most walkable towns in America, a distinction that has been recognized by PBS and Walking Magazine, including in the Walking Town Hall of Fame. Though the town's dense amenities and constrained geography make Glenwood Springs a natural environment for pedestrians and cyclists, the extensive trails running throughout and around the city resulted from a renaissance that began in the 1980s in response to congestion and traffic.
Due to assertive planning by city management during the early years of the city, Glenwood Springs owns some of the most senior water rights to tributaries of the Colorado River. Despite very little risk of water supply inadequacy, unlike most of the American West, conservation plans have been enacted anyway for largely environmental reasons. Supply is so ample that the city has an incomplete understanding of its own water rights. The town's drinking water is supplied primarily through senior rights to major watersheds in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, and the tap water is generally of excellent quality.
Extensive mineral deposits exist further up the Crystal River and the Roaring Fork, and petroleum resources are ample in western Garfield County, bringing significant tax revenue to Glenwood Springs. However, Glenwood Springs itself lies outside of the Colorado Mineral Belt, and there are no mineral or oil and gas sources near Glenwood Springs proper or its watersheds. While the paucity of minerals and oil was disastrous for early miners hoping to strike it rich, modern Glenwood Springs has none of the typical Colorado mountain town legacy of resource extraction, boasting pristine air, water, and land. Valley inversions and heavy traffic to Aspen can lead to air quality issues during exceptionally cold spells of winter.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Glenwood Springs has a total area of 5.7 square miles (14.7 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.16%, is water.
Glenwood Springs has a generally mild and semi-arid climate, much more consistently stable than that of the Front Range and most of Colorado, though still decidedly continental and prone to periods of extreme weather. Microclimates dominate Glenwood Springs, with areas close to the rivers often much more damp and cool than hillsides.
Local food production has seen a dramatic revival in recent years. While not as consistently fecund as the extensive agricultural and viticultural areas at lower altitude such as Palisade, most types of fruit and vegetable grow very well in the light and soil if generously watered. Stonefruit such as cherries, peaches, and plums, pomaceous fruit such as apples and pears, and grapes are especially suited.
Apples and peaches from the nearby town of Silt won first place at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, and strawberries thrived so well that Glenwood Springs' largest festival was inaugurated as Strawberry Days in 1898. Just a few miles upvalley, Carbondale became legendary for its potatoes.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,736 people, 3,216 households, and 1,926 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,611 people per square mile (622.3/km²). There were 3,353 housing units at an average density of 698.5 per square mile (269.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.42% White, 0.23% African American, 0.71% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 5.82% from other races, and 1.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.30% of the population. 13.9% were of German, 13.3% English, 12.9% Irish, 7.6% American and 7.0% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 3,216 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.1% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.1% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 33.3% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 103.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $43,934, and the median income for a family was $52,903. Males had a median income of $38,506 versus $29,272 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,449. About 3.5% of families and 7.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.
Despite being an expensive area in which to live, Glenwood Springs has the highest life expectancy in America for 40-year-olds making working wages.
Glenwood Springs' economy has centered on hospitality for vacationers since its foundation, unlike many of Colorado's mountain towns, which were generally settled for mining or railroad purposes. While early railroad access and inclusion on main lines and proximity to Aspen certainly catalyzed the city's growth, Glenwood Springs consistently attracted visitors, and thus never really experienced the bust or quiet years most mountain towns endured.
Much of this tourism, particularly during the summer months, typically involves local outdoor sports or the amenities of the town. In the winter, the proximity of Glenwood Springs to multiple major ski resorts and its hot springs draw visitors as well. Autumn is scenic as the gambel oaks studding the hillsides change color, and spring brings a tide of violas and other flowers, particularly bulbs, from traditional daffodils to native sego lilies.
Historically, Glenwood Springs has been most visited by residents of other parts of Colorado, but tourism from the rest of America and the world has been the most rapid source of growth recently. Excellent connectivity is provided throughout town by a local fiber-optic loop with multiple uplinks due to Glenwood's railroad heritage.
Glenwood Springs also serves as a bedroom community for Aspen and Vail, while many people who work in Glenwood Springs in turn live further down the Colorado River. Due to severe geographic constraints, if further population growth is to be accommodated, it must come primarily from multifamily infill development.
Bloomberg Business named Glenwood Springs the 7th wealthiest small town in America in 2015, due principally to the influence of Aspen. Glenwood Springs and Aspen share a micropolitan statistical area, and businesses often serve the entire Valley, including a consolidated multiple listing service. Many small businesses start in the area due to the ambient wealth and a strong preference for local business, but they typically relocate to larger metropolitan areas after successful growth leads to needs for more affordable labor and physical resources.
Glenwood Springs is the headquarters of the Roaring Fork RE-1 school district and the Colorado Mountain College. In all, the city has 5 public K-12 schools: Glenwood Springs High School, Yampah Mountain High School (an alternative school not part of RE-1), Glenwood Springs Middle School, Glenwood Springs Elementary School, and Sopris Elementary School. St. Stephen's Catholic School, which was founded in 1982, is K-8.
Yampah High was a finalist for a $10M grant from XQ Super Schools, a philanthropic project run by the widow of Steve Jobs.
Glenwood Springs' principal news source is the Post Independent, a local daily newspaper created by the merger of the Glenwood Post, with a colorful history stretching back in various forms to 1889, and a newer competitor, the Glenwood Independent. It has received numerous awards over the years, including the 2016 American Society of News Editors' Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership. The newspaper and many of its reporters have been recognized by the Colorado Associated Press for a variety of distinctions.
KMTS provides local country radio along the Colorado River, and KSNO serves the Roaring Fork Valley.
Amtrak's California Zephyr, operating daily in both directions between Chicago and Emeryville, California, serves Glenwood Springs, the second busiest station in Colorado, behind only Denver's Union Station. The first commercially successful dome cars were built for the Zephyr family, inspired by Glenwood Canyon.
Due to the scenery, timetables designed for maximum sunlight in Glenwood Canyon, the proximity of downtown, and the sheer volume of local tourism, Glenwood Springs receives more passenger traffic than many major cities on the Zephyr line, including Lincoln, Omaha, Grand Junction, and Salt Lake City.
The Zephyr takes a scenic route through the mountains between Denver and Glenwood Springs. Much of the route follows the Colorado River and is away from roads and major development. Part of the route near Glenwood Springs was used for locations in the 1995 action movie Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, starring Steven Seagal.
The local transportation authority is Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA, pronounced "rafta"). RFTA retains ownership of the land previously used for rail traffic to Aspen, a source of occasional consternation in balancing development needs. Proposals to introduce light rail to the Valley were almost realized but were not found economically feasible. VelociRFTA service described below currently serves the role well, but RFTA remains committed to realizing the light-rail vision.
RFTA provides bus transit in Glenwood Springs and throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. VelociRFTA(pronounced "Veloci-rafta", a pun on velociraptor) BRT service, the first rural BRT in the United States, began in September 2013, offering connections between south Glenwood Springs and Aspen roughly every 15 minutes with a 60-minute total travel time.
The city also operates an intracity bus service, Ride Glenwood. Ride Glenwood offers a main route from the west side of town along the 6&24 corridor, through downtown, to the south part of Glenwood along Hwy 82.
A free shuttle runs between the Hotel Colorado and the Hot Springs at Olive & 6th to 8th & Cooper and Centennial Park every 20 minutes from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM while construction on the new pedestrian walkway over the Colorado River is underway.
Greyhound Lines stops in Glenwood Springs on trips between New York and Las Vegas twice per day and Denver and Las Vegas once per day.
Daily bus service named the Bustang runs between Glenwood Springs and Denver operated by CDOT. Amenities include free Wi-Fi and electricity and restrooms. Direct connection to Denver International Airport through commuter rail is available at the drop-off point in Union Station.
Glenwood Springs lies along I-70 at exit 116 (main exit), about 150 miles (240 km) west of Denver and 85 miles (137 km) east of Grand Junction. I-70 is one of the main east-west routes through the Rocky Mountains. Colorado State Highway 82 leads southeast from Glenwood Springs up the Roaring Fork Valley 12 miles (19 km) to Carbondale and 41 miles (66 km) to Aspen.
Glenwood Springs Airport, a municipal airport, was built in the early 1940s. Its airport code is KGWS. The airport was also named the 4th most challenging mountain airport by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). The main reasons cited were the airport's mountainous location, the runway, and the unpredictable wind gusts, which caused a crash in 2007. In 2004 a Cessna crashed into an apartment near the airport due to engine problems.
Glenwood Springs has always been famous principally for outdoor recreation, today joined by cultural facilities and the emergence of Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole as a gastronomical destination for foodies. Activities include whitewater rafting, kayaking, caving, cycling, rock climbing, horseback riding, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours, off-road Hummer tours, Segway tours, tandem paragliding flights, world-class fishing, and lodge stays in Glenwood Canyon. Outfitters are available to help visitors arrange activities.
The primary draw of Glenwood Springs for over a hundred years has been the numerous hot springs in the area. Colorado is making a broader effort to advertise its hot springs after surveys demonstrated the high value visitors place on hot mineral waters.
Glenwood Hot Springs is the largest hot springs facility in town, centrally located across the Colorado River from downtown. The large pool is kept at 93 °F (34 °C) year round and is the world's largest hot mineral springs pool. The smaller "Therapy Pool" averages 104 °F (40 °C) year round, preferred by some for its higher mineral content. There is a 107-room lodge, which includes unlimited access to the hot springs and a full hot breakfast for all guests. Spa of the Rockies is an award-winning mineral spa that specializes in natural, mineral based treatments. Other amenities include a full-service athletic club, gift shop and restaurant. Two waterslides, mini golf, and a cold water kiddy pool are open during the warmer months.
Yampah Hot Springs vapor caves are historic underground steam baths. They are over 100 years old and were used by the Ute Indians as a source of rejuvenation and healing. Today, the vapor caves consist of three adjoining underground rock chambers. Cave temperatures average 110 to 112 °F (43 to 44 °C). The hot springs and mineral caves are tourist attractions and were a main reason for the settlement of Glenwood Springs.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs offers a complimentary experience with smaller pools in a more intimate setting. The underlying geothermal resources and land have been developed and closed several times. The present business opened in 2015.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is the hometown hill for Glenwood Springs, operating a brick and mortar store for lift tickets, rentals, repairs, and equipment in downtown Glenwood. The ski resort itself lies 12 miles (19 km) south of town on County Road 117, also known as Four Mile Road. Sunlight Mountain Resort is most well-known to families due to a variety of terrain that all leads to a single main base. It offers excellent cross-country skiing in a large groomed Nordic area, sharing the spectacular scenery and dense aspen trees that mark other, better-known resorts in the area. There are multiple very steep open grove runs for experts who enjoy tree skiing and powder.
Other ski areas such as Aspen, Beaver Creek, and Vail are farther away, but Glenwood Springs is still frequently selected as a home base for visitors to these other resorts due to the hot springs, cultural and dining options, and cheaper lodging in the winter.
Two of the largest rivers in Colorado, the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River, converge in Glenwood Springs. Both are used extensively for recreation by locals, visitors and commercial outfitters. The waters of the Roaring Fork flowing through Glenwood Springs proper are "Gold Medal" fishing waters, formally so designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The natural diversity in terrain and gradient of Glenwood Canyon and many local watersheds provides options for most watercraft users' skill levels. The Roaring Fork river provides a relaxing float trip with very few class 2 rapids. The Colorado River starting at Grizzly Creek is also a tame class 2 float. Running the Colorado from the Shoshone put-in provides a more adrenaline-loaded experience on upper class 3 rapids. Different times of year will accommodate different skill levels, with spring run-off making the rivers vastly more wild, while the rivers are often lackadaisical during the autumn and frozen over completely in the winter.
There is a dedicated Glenwood Whitewater Park that was developed in the river near Midland Avenue to provide features and terrain for stationary wave surfing, kayaking, and more.
Paragliding is a popular summer and shoulder season morning activity in Glenwood Springs, with supportive and generally reliable air currents and extraordinary views with terrain that stretches more than 2 kilometers above the valley floor visible in multiple directions. There are three different launch points offered on two different mountains in town. Five more sites are available within a less-than-40 minute radius.
While Carbondale, just upvalley, is already well known as a premiere mountain biking destination, Glenwood Springs has its own ambitious plans to make the rugged terrain surrounding town available to riders. There are already many famous mountain bike trails in the Roaring Fork Valley, most requiring significant fitness and stamina for full enjoyment due to the steep slopes and rocky outcroppings.
Some favored routes for locals are the Forest Hollow Trail, winding along the rim above Glenwood Canyon, and the Scout Trail, an extreme drop from the canyon rim into downtown Glenwood. The Jeanne Golay or Red Mountain Trail is a dirt trail up Red Mountain with constant, intense vertical gain that locals use for training and exercise.
Glenwood Springs is home to a 9-hole golf course referred to by locals as "The Hill" and is within driving distance of mountain golf. One golf club received Golf Magazine's "Best of America's New Courses" list. Several larger courses, most notably including River Valley Ranch and Ironbridge, sprawl through some of the mountain valleys around Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
There are several local putt-putt golf facilities that generally only open in the summer.
Two exceptionally beautiful and long trails host Glenwood Springs as one of the endpoints.
The Glenwood Canyon Recreational Trail winds 16 miles (26 km) through Glenwood Canyon sandwiched between the canyon walls and the Colorado River. It is suitable for families and recreational riders, with several access points and rest areas along the way.
The Rio Grande Trail runs roughly 41 miles (66 km) along the former local Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, reaching all the way to Aspen in a highly successful rails-to-trails project featured by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as the Trail of the Month in April 2016.
Beyond these primary trails, scores of connector trails and designated bike paths exist in the city and throughout the surrounding region. Bike rentals and shuttles are available at several outfitters in town. The network of trails offers several loops within the city, including some that tour the rivers.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a moderate-sized amusement park aimed at visitors of all ages. A tram takes visitors up to an extensive system of caverns historically known as the "Fairy Caves", now known as the Glenwood Caverns. Bus transport is available as a backup on windy days. The rides and the tramway are faintly visible throughout the city.
Principal attractions are the caverns and a number of imported thrill rides, including an alpine coaster, the Giant Canyon Swing, which spins riders out over the cliff-edge of Glenwood Canyon to reflect on the Colorado River some 1300 ft below, and the Cliffhanger, a roller coaster which is literally bolted to the mountain. More gentle experiences such as laser tag, lunch, and rides for small children are hosted at the top of the tramway.
The Glenwood Caverns themselves are a complex cave system that winds throughout Iron Mountain, eventually connecting to the same hydrothermal features that power the hot springs. A guided walking cave tour will take you through the cave system to see places like Kings Row, the most highly decorated cave room in Colorado, and the Barn, the second largest cave room in Colorado. Challenging and authentic guided caving experiences are available as well.
The Glenwood Vaudeville Revue is a two-hour professional dinner theater show performing comedy skits, dances, and songs for audiences of all ages. An old downtown movie theater was purchased and renovated into a dedicated performance venue. The revue has been in professional performance since 2009.
Hanging Lake is located in Glenwood Canyon about 7 miles (11 km) east of Glenwood Springs. The lake is reached via a trailhead located near I-70 in the bottom of the canyon. In the summer of 2010 the boardwalk at the lake was replaced. The trail to the lake itself is fairly strenuous, but the trailhead is easily accessible so long as parking is available. Cars regularly fill the lot all the way to the highway during most times of year.
Preservation of the lake's unique beauty is becoming a struggle against rapidly rising levels of visitation. Plans are currently underway to provide alternative transportation options, study capacity limitations, and gauge other mechanisms to reduce the impact of visitation while still sharing the lake with a maximum number of visitors.
The unique geography of Glenwood Springs, etched deep into the surrounding terrain by the confluence of the rivers, provides hundreds of miles of off-road trails minutes from downtown.
The most popular trail near Glenwood Springs is called the Transfer Trail. This trail starts on the base of Iron Mountain and travels on the Flat Tops going near many clear mountain lakes and hidden caves. The Transfer Trail was once a primary access route to Glenwood Springs when Glenwood Canyon was considered largely impassible. The Flat Tops still host the ghost town of Carbonate at 10,783 ft of elevation, the first county seat of Garfield County.
One of many festivals and markets hosted by Glenwood Springs throughout the year, the Downtown Market farmers' market occurs every Tuesday throughout the summer months. Vendors offer locally grown and Colorado made products, primarily foodstuffs and crafts and wares. Cooking demonstrations and musical performances are sometimes arranged in a small nearby park.
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