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Driving on the road to the Upper Blanco Basin

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Photo courtesy of John M. Motter The Phillips family were early settlers in San Juan Country. They helped settle Del Norte in the early 1870s. In 1898, Alice Phillips, seated, erected the building on main street first known as the Phillips Building, then the Hatcher Building and then the Hersch Building. The two-story building remains at 452 Pagosa St.

Photo courtesy of John M. Motter
The Phillips family were early settlers in San Juan Country. They helped settle Del Norte in the early 1870s. In 1898, Alice Phillips, seated, erected the building on main street first known as the Phillips Building, then the Hatcher Building and then the Hersch Building. The two-story building remains at 452 Pagosa St.

We’re driving on the road to the Upper Blanco Basin during the early 1920s. We’ve almost reached the point where today’s road tops the hill from where, for the first time, you can look into the Upper Basin. During the early 1920s, we wouldn’t be at this location because, during those days, the road would have turned easterly before we reached the crest of the hill. It tended to move just north of the ridge crest and crossed what became the Red Ryder Ranch before turning south again and dropping down to the river.

After reaching the river, it turned eastward along the river’s north bank and continued to a bridge across the river. The road branched at the bridge. The road which followed the north bank of the river passed the Sisson Ranch and then the Upper Blanco School House. That school building was still in place when I moved to this country about 40 years ago. It has since been moved to the Fred Harman Art Museum, where it can still be seen. I don’t know much about the landmarks as the road continued eastward, but I know several Pagosa families lived there during the early days, including the late Tinnie Lattin’s family and Faye Brown’s family after she married.

Returning to the bridge, after crossing the south river, the road branched as it does today. One branch meandered east (upstream) along the south side of the river. The other branch turns in a southeasterly direction where it circles a small hill then heads south down Leche Creek Valley. These roads were much the same then as they are today. The road ends at a resort ranch that years ago was called Thunderbird Lodge.

Just before the lodge is reached, a road branches to the south which continued to the Liggett (spelling?) Ranch. On the way, it passed the Deer Creek School.

Now we need to backtrack to where the road to the Upper Blanco passed the Blue Creek confluence with the Little Blanco. In those days, and even today, you could cross the river and follow Blue Creek as it skirts around Blue Mountain. This road continues to the Blanco River and crosses. After crossing, the road branched. The easterly branch joined the Deer Creek Road we mentioned earlier. The southeasterly branch connected with what old timers referred to as the Murray Ranch. The Murray Ranch (Provancher Ranch) is now owned by the Forest Service and used to be operated as an example of early-day ranching in Archuleta County. From the Provancher Ranch, a road runs west to the existing road that follows the south shoreline of the Blanco River downstream to U.S. 84.

Another road from the Provancher Ranch may have left the east entrance gate in a southerly direction. I don’t know where it went, maybe to Halfway Canyon.

If we return to the Liggett Ranch near the Deer Creek School we mentioned earlier, that road may have connected with the Buckles/Harris Lake Road, which connects with U.S. 84 at the top of Confar Hill.

This story was posted on March 13, 2014.