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Identification:

Preferred Structure Name:
Fall River Road
Structure Number:
HS-0996
Other Structure Name(s):
 
Other Structure Name(s)
1. 
Rte 0500 U East Old Fall River Road
Park:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Historic District:
 
Historic District
No records.
Structure State:
Colorado
Structure County:
Larimer
Region:
Intermountain
Cluster:
Rocky Mountain
Administrative Unit:
Rocky Mountain National Park
LCS ID:
010533
 
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Entered - Documented
National Register Date:
07/20/1987
National Historic Landmark?:
No
Significance Level:
Local
Short Significance Description:
Significant under criterion A for transportation history of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Long Significance Description:
The gravel road clings to the side of the mountain with precipitous drop-offs and hairpin turns. Begun in 1913, this road was to cross the Rockies, providing access to Grand Lake and the Kawuneechee Valley. Convicts hand built the road. Work ceased during World War I. Between 1918 and 1920, a contractor finished the project. Larimer and Grand Counties wanted to promote the "Switzerland of the Rockies" and attract the growing tourist crowd. The local newspapers boasted that a motorist could travel from Denver to Estes Park, cross the divide to Grand Lake, and return to Denver via Berthoud Pass in only three days.

Upon completion, the road averaged eight to ten feet in width upon completion, had grades of up to fifteen percent, and possessed a number of rock retaining walls. It also had numerous switchbacks, come of which required drivers to back up and pull forward in a seesaw movement before they could be negotiated. Nevertheless, the road was considered well-built for its day, especially considering the rugged terrain. The road was a result of a joint state and federal effort whereby the state was responsible for building the road and the federal government (National Park Service) was responsible for maintaining it. But the road's maintenance proved difficult, costing as much as its initial construction. Snow and mudslides were common occurrences; the rock retaining walls took up a great deal of employee time and had a major impact on the park's annual budget. To accommodate a growing automobile-based visitation, the park built Trail Ridge Road, incorporating much of the original Fall River Road.

The park restored it in 1968, although the bottom third had been paved. The road is accessed from Trail Ridge Road near Sheep Lakes, follows the Fall River past Chasm Falls, crosses Chapin Pass and ends at the Alpine Visitor Center. It is only open in the summer, as weather permits.
 
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Historic
Chronology:
 
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year AD/BC
End Year
End Year AD/BC
Designer
Designer Occupation
1. 
Built
1913
AD
1920
AD
State of Colorado
Other
2. 
Restored
1968
AD


NPS

 
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
NPS Class I Principal Road
Primary Current Use:
NPS Class I Principal Road
Structure Contains Museum Collections?:
No
Other Functions or Uses:
 
Other Function(s) or Use(s)
Historic or Current
No records.
 
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
Road
Material(s):
 
Structural Component(s)
Material(s)
1. 
Substructure
Earth
2. 
Superstructure
Earth
3. 
Superstructure
Stone
4. 
Superstructure
Asphalt
Short Physical Description:
Nine-and-a-half miles of gravel road, hairpin turns, and breathtaking views following Fall River to the Alpine Visitor Center.
Long Physical Description:
The road winds from Sheep Lakes to the Alpine Visitor Center along Fall River. The lower portion is paved, but after the Endovalley trailhead, the road narrows to a one-way, unpaved route. Hairpin turns limit the length of vehicles. Retaining walls hold back the slope between the straight-aways. There are a few gravel pull-offs along the narrow road.