Getting to know Crawford Country...
Crawford is a small cow town of around 400 residents, situated in the North Fork Valley, on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies, and bordered by some of the most diverse and stunning scenery in the state. Needle Rock, a 700 foot high volcanic monolith, stands as sentry just a few miles east of Crawford, with the West Elk Mountains rising majestically as its backdrop. Just as spectacularly as the West Elks command your attention for their climb towards the heavens, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a beautiful 13 mile drive southwest of Crawford, inspires gasps of disbelief from visitors as they peer over 2,000 feet straight down to the Gunnison River below. The Grand Mesa, a short drive to the northwest boasts of being the world’s largest flat top mountain, complete with hundreds of lakes, and beautiful evergreen and aspen forests. Grand Mesa is home to diverse wildlife including deer, elk, black bear, mountain lions and even moose!
While lacking the full stunning visual impact of these wonders, the outlying high desert area, referred to locally as the ‘dobie badlands, may seem a bit understated, but tell a story no less compelling… Imagine the ash mounds before you, the result of thousands of years of volcanic activity, as resting at the bottom of the shallow inland sea that once submerged the North Fork Valley. Pick up ancient shark teeth at 6,500 feet in elevation and try to keep your imagination in check. It’s all fascinating - every square foot of this beautiful area.
Crawford is situated at the southern edge of the agricultural area known as the North Fork Valley. The North Fork Valley has been referred to in an article in Forbes magazine as “The Golden Triangle”. Crawford is one point on the triangle; the other two points are made up of Crawford’s sister towns of Hotchkiss and Paonia. A noted geographer has referred to the North Fork Valley as an "American Provance". What makes this area noteworthy is not only the spectacular surroundings, but the quality of life found in the North Fork Valley. Old and new ways of life intersect and tend to complement one another. Tradition is still strong in the Valley and expresses itself, among other ways, in the many cattle and sheep ranches found here. Cattle drives, with cowboys on horseback, are still common in early summer and late fall/early winter, as ranchers move their cattle between valley pastures and the warm weather grazing lands of the high country.
But for every old time cattle ranch, there’s an organic orchard or commercial garden, a vineyard, or a rancher raising elk or buffalo. Small-scale farmers and producers relying on hard work, creativity and a willingness to diversify, have forged a new economic direction for the North Fork Valley. And with each passing year this reputation has spread further, attracting a new breed of visitor – those seeking an authentic experience centered on an appreciation of the bounty of the Valley… Wine tastings, farm dinners and produce purchased directly from the farmer are attracting the attention of those serious about the quality of their gastronomic experiences.
The creative spirit that is so well-manifest in the local approach to agriculture is also expressed in the creative and performing arts. It would be hard to imagine another small rural community so rich in creative spirit. The Valley boasts an enormous number of talented individuals, skilled in everything from the creation of art glass, to bronze sculpture, to fine art, to musical expression, to the written word. And the Valley is home to many institutions supporting the arts: The Blue Sage Center in Paonia, The Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss, The Paradise Theatre in Paonia, the Hotchkiss Fine Arts Association, KVNF Public Radio, to name only a few. There is no question that the natural beauty of the area, combined with a general creative culture, has resulted in an area very attractive to those who highly value creative expression, and this rich cultural presence is a benefit to the resident and visitor alike.
As for Crawford itself… Crawford tends to see itself as the more traditionally ‘western’ of the three towns; with all three lending a distinct personality to the overall experience of the North Fork Valley. Crawford and the surrounding area features a general/feed store/motel, a world famous art glass studio, a gift shop, and a handful of service businesses (including a gas station and convenience/liquor store just south of town). Currently, Crawford has no restaurants - the COVID pandemic put both previous restaurants out of business. The town has a ‘western feel’ which is imparted by its variety of historic false front, stone and clapboard buildings downtown - and even a few old settler log cabins on the west end of Cedar Avenue. Crawford itself, while truly charming, will likely not take a full day to explore; however, Crawford makes an excellent central location from which to explore the surrounding natural and cultural beauty of the North Fork Valley. For an extensive look at the North Fork Valley, please visit these helpful online resources:
Other sites of interest...
CedaredgeColorado.com Cedaredge Chamber of Commerce
DeltaColorado.org Delta Chamber of Commerce
DeltaCounty.com Delta County Government
nps.gov/blca Black Canyon National Park
https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Crawford Crawford State Park Reservoir
https://cpw.state.co.us Colorado Division of Wildlife
TownOfHotchkiss.com Town of Hotchkiss
fws.gov/hotchkiss/ Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery
KVNF.org Community Public Radio, Paonia
BlueSage.org Blue Sage Center for the Arts
CreameryArtsCenter.org Creamery Arts Center
Vogaco.org Valley Organic Growers Association
ParadiseofPaonia.com Paradise Theatre, Paonia
DeltaLibraries.org Delta County Library System
TheConservationCenter.org Western Slope Environmental Resource Cncl.