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Southwest Life Health And the West is History Community Travel

And the West is History: Big Bend, La Plata County – 1887

This photo shows the community of Big Bend in La Plata County at its heyday in 1887. The community was first settled in 1878, not coincidently where the Dolores River makes a large sweeping curve about two miles downstream from where the town of Dolores is today. When a major irrigation project was initiated with the construction of ditches and flumes to carry Dolores River water to the Montezuma valley around Cortez, the town provided a base for workers and area farmers to serve the project. Always isolated, the town was somehow completely missed in the 1885 Colorado Census. Still, the residents hoped the promised railroad would make their town a major stop on the proposed line from Durango to Ridgway. They were destined to be disappointed, however, when in 1891 the Rio Grande Southern Railroad bypassed Big Bend by two miles and created its own town and depot at Dolores. When La Plata County was split and the new county of Montezuma was formed in 1889, the town changed counties, but by 1891 it was all but abandoned as the businesses and most residents had moved to Dolores. Today, McPhee Reservoir, when full, just touches the site of this town. – Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org (Catalog Number: 22.16.1 from the La Plata County Historical Society Photo Collections)