Hayden, CO: The Heart of the Yampa Valley


The town of Hayden grew from a strong agricultural heritage that is still alive today. Ute Indians and trappers spent time in the area, and settlers and ranchers first came to the Hayden Valley in 1874.

Strong agriculture heritage and birthplace of the American Quarter Horse

The town of Hayden grew from a strong agricultural heritage that is still alive today. Ute Indians and trappers spent time in the area, and settlers and ranchers first came to the Hayden Valley in 1874, according to the Hayden Heritage Center.

The town was named after Professor Ferdinand V. Hayden who had camped in the area while exploring, mapping and surveying for the federal government in 1873 and referred to the site as “Haydenville” on his maps.

An early ranching family laid out a townsite on part of their land in 1894. Hayden flourished during the turn of the 20th century, according to “The Historical Guide to Routt County,” and the town was incorporated in 1906. Through the early years the economy revolved around cattle, sheep and grain production. Coal mining has long been and continues to be an economic factor in the area.

Some of the local historical highlights include:

  • Routt County was established in 1877.
  • The Congregational Church building was dedicated in 1903.
  • Electricity was available in town during the evening and pre-dawn hours by 1910.
  • Early 1900’s – “A major portion of the foundation stock bloodlines of the American Quarter Horse came from Hayden, Colorado, through the efforts of early breeders such as Coke Roberds, Si Dawson, Marshall Peavy, Evelyn Peavy Semotan and Quentin Semotan.  It was in Hayden that the foundation bloodline of Old Fred/ Peter McCue was first bred. Many AQHA champion horses trace back to this famous bloodline.”   -Hayden Heritage Center Museum
  • The 1913 arrival of the railroad solved the town’s transportation isolation problems and helped Hayden grow as an agricultural export center for cattle, sheep, wheat, barley and oats.
  • A telegraph line was completed in 1914.
  • The first Routt County Fair started as a celebration of the arrival of the railroad and has continued each year since 1914.
  • By 1915 the town boasted 714 people, two general stores with banks, three livery barns, three blacksmiths, two hotels, a newspaper, church, school, one doctor and four surveyors.
  • The Hayden grain elevator opened in 1917.
  • The two-story Hayden Union High School was built in 1919 including a swimming pool and meeting and social facilities for the community.
  • Solandt Memorial Hospital opened in 1923 named after the town’s longtime physician who was killed in 1916 when his automobile overturned as he was returning from a medical call. It was the only hospital then, between Denver and Salt Lake City.
  • In the 1930s Hayden was the largest sheep shipping center in the U.S.
  • In January 1942, a methane gas explosion killed 34 coal miners at Mount Harris, seven miles east of Hayden.
  • The Hayden electrical power plant opened in 1965.
  • The first commercial aircraft landed at the newly built Yampa Valley Regional Airport in October 1966 on a 7,000-foot runway.
  • Train passenger service continued from the Hayden depot through 1968.
  • By 1977, the town had grown to include 1,362 people.
  • The regional airport runway was lengthened in 1986 to 10,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft such as the Boeing 757s and 767s.
  • The town celebrated the centennial of Hayden in 2006.

Nothing Daunted

The recent New York Times bestseller Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden portrays the story of New York Society schoolteacher’s 1916 adventures in the West. The historic main street and business district for the town, Walnut Street, remains relatively unchanged from its early days as described in the book. The Historic Walking Tour of downtown enables the streetscape to come back to life.


Other local history supporters include: