Cañon City - Colorado

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Cañon City & the Royal Gorge

What was once the locale for filming Tom Mix movies, Cañon City sits on the edge of the Great Plains, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the southwest. Red sandstone cliffs punctuate the horizon north of town, while the area's most notable geological feature, the Royal Gorge, is located 8 miles west of Cañon City.

The great chasm has been cut through solid granite by the Arkansas River, and it's a sight which has amazed travelers for many years. In 1929, the world's highest suspension bridge was constructed across the Royal Gorge.

You can see the gorge for free if you take the north route to the site, and stop before entering the commercial attraction. However, the best way to get the full effect of the gorge, is to pay a fee and enter the theme park developed around the gorge. You can drive over the suspension bridge, then take a ride on the aerial tramway, or pay your way onto the incline railway that descends to river level, stopping meanwhile to have a piece of pizza, or to buy a souvenir.

A scenic railway provides a 30-minute ride to the lip of the gorge. There are restaurants beside the canyon, and several other attractions outside the immediate gorge area (including the Buckskin Joe theme park). These people knew, from day one, how to exploit one of the world's natural wonders. The same approach taken to the Grand Canyon, would make entrepreneurs a gazzilion dollars a year.

You may also take a tour of the Colorado Territorial Prison Museum, at 1st Street and Macon Avenue. Prisons are the area's chief industry, providing a secure (and growing) economy.

For motoring tourists however, the chief attraction is the Gold Belt Tour, a loop drive which will take you to the old mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor, with a choice of two dramatic routes through deep canyons. Which road you will take depends on what kind of car you drive (four-wheel-drive, or not). The Oak Creek Grade provides another five scenic drive, with great views of the Wet Mountain Valley, and the Sangre de Cristo Range.

The best place to fish (for brown trout) is Texas Creek, located 26 miles west of town. Texas Creek Road leads, as well, to other streams, and several lakes. It is also possible to pull trout out of the Arkansas River, but the fishing is better near Salida. River floating is a popular pastime. One may raft through the Royal Gorge, but this 7-mile stretch of the river has dangerous rapids, and is suitable for only the most intrepid floaters. The rafting is more placid above the gorge, between Salida and Cañon City. Outfitters are located in both towns.


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