A Detailed History of Palisade Colorado
If you've spent any time studying our state, you probably already know that Colorado has a rich history. Much of the towns and communities that we know today got their start because of mining booms that took place in the 1800s and Palisade, Colorado is no different.
However, because of its unique characteristics, the town of Palisade is truly unlike any other town in Colorado, or any other town altogether for that matter.
Here is a detailed history of the Colorado town of Palisade.
The History of Palisade Colorado: Prehistoric History
The area of Colorado that we know now as Palisade was quite different for many years before it was taken over by settlers. In fact, prehistoric history tells the story of the Bookcliffs or 'Palisades' that gave Palisade its name.
The Palisades were formed 75 million years ago by Mancos shale forming underwater. Geological events over many years caused the Bookcliffs to raise up and the water dissipated into what we now know as the Colorado River and the Palisades were born.
The History of Palisade Colorado: The Home of the Utes
It has been said that for around 10,000 years before white settlers came to the area now known as Palisade that it was inhabited by Native Americans, namely the Ute Nation, who used water from the Colorado River to grow their crops.
The History of Palisade Colorado: The First Settlers
The first settler of Palisade Colorado is said to have been a man by the name of J.P. Harlow who arrived in the area in 1882. Harlow captured the water of what was then known as the Grand River via dams and canals for growing fruits and vegetables on his ranch.
Following Harlow settling in the area now known as Palisade, a boom of sorts occurred with numerous events shaping the area into the town of Palisade.
The History of Palisade Colorado: 1883 through 1889
The following events occurred between Harlow settling in the Palisade area and Palisade becoming an incorporated town in Colorado:
- 1883 - Grand Valley Canal Diversion Dam is built.
- 1884 - George Smith opened the first coal mine in the area, known as the Bookcliff Coal Mine.
- The late 1800s - A coal mining boom happened all across Colorado leading to settlers landing in the Palisade area and growing fruit.
- The mid-1880s - The Palisade area became known as 'The Banana Belt' because of the climate that was favorable to growing fruit.
- It was also during this time that the 'Million Dollar Wind' was coined for the wind that blows through DeBeque Canyon, optimizing the environment for growing fruit.
- In addition, the Palisade area became known as 'Peach Capital' because of the irrigation, climate, and rich soil perfect for growing fruit.
- 1885 - John Nichols opened the Cameo Mine which later provided coal to the Public Service Company Power Plant
- 1890 - Rollers were built for the Grand River Diversion Dam
- 1890 - The first passenger train rolls through the Palisade area
- 1895 - The first school opens in the Palisade area
- 1897 - Work begins on the Grand River Diversion Dam
- 1899 - George Smith discovers a large vein of coal in DeBeque Canyon
The History of Palisade Colorado: Palisade Becomes a Town
After growing fairly quickly, the town of Palisade became incorporated on April 4, 1904. Following becoming a town, more significant events took place in the area during the 1900s:
- 1915 - The Grand River Diversion Dam is completed and becomes the largest roller dam in the world.
- The 1950s - Natural gas becomes a more popular resource than coal, resulting in many of the mines in the area closing down.
- 1957 - The Public Service Company Power Plant is built in Cameo, Colorado, just up the road from Palisade
- 1962 and 1963 - Palisade has a harsh winter that wipes out most of the fruit trees
- 1989 - Another harsh winter damages many of Palisade's fruit trees and grapevines.
The History of Palisade: The 2000s
In 2010 the Public Service Company Power Plant closed down and is now home to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife's 'Cameo Shooting and Education Complex.'
In 2010, a census was taken in Colorado reporting a population of 2692 people living in Palisade.
Finally, in 2015, the Roller Dam celebrated its 100th birthday.
[Museum of Western Colorado, Visit Palisade]