Dramatically grown well beyond the quaint historic town.
For the past 20 years, Basalt has dramatically grown well beyond the quaint historic town it still appears to be in the current “downtown” location. The town’s boundaries have shifted further south and west as it continues to expand with an abundance of commercial enterprises, residential options, offices, retail stores, arts facilities, and dining choices.
Basalt is now home to the Roaring Fork Club, a private residential golf and fishing club, to The Wilds, an exclusive condominium development overlooking the town, and to many real estate subdivisions with some homes along the Frying Pan or Roaring Fork rivers.
Basalt was formed in the late 1880s when the two small communities of Frying Pan Junction and Aspen Junction joined together on land formerly occupied by Ute Indians. Frying Pan, the first settlement in the area, was established in 1882 on the south side of the trout-rich Frying Pan River. It was originally a tent city that housed workers from the nearby charcoal kiln. In 1887, Aspen Junction was created to accommodate workers on the Colorado Midland Railroad.
Construction of the railroad, which began in 1885, quickly connected the town of Leadville through Hagerman Pass to Aspen Junction along the Frying Pan River and then branched out to Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction. The railroad’s arrival not only facilitated the transport of charcoal and ore but also brought people and supplies. Folks from Frying Pan soon moved across the river, and Aspen Junction quickly became a town with a general store, a boarding house, a restaurant, and several saloons. By 1890, there was a post office in Aspen Junction, but five years later, to prevent confusion with Aspen or Grand Junction, the town’s name was changed to Basalt — a natural choice due to the basalt rock found just north of the settlement.
The Town of Basalt was officially incorporated in October of 1901 and remained a vital railroad center until 1919 when the railroad closed. Mining, ranching, and farming became the main occupations for area residents, whose town was lined with Victorian charm. For decades, until the advent of the ski industry in and around Aspen, Basalt was known primarily as a ranching community. Then, in the 1960s, many residents found employment up-valley thanks to skiing’s rapid rise in popularity and tourism growth.
Facts: Population approximately 4,000; elevation 6,611 feet; land area 1.9 square miles, situated at the confluence of the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers.
Walk around downtown Basalt today, and you’ll see remnants of its history in Victorian-styled buildings and old charcoal kilns not far from the new home of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center, a world-famous “think and do” tank. The small town is filled with restaurants, galleries, shops, professional offices, and a contemporary public library.
Basalt is the epicenter of many recreational activities: gold-medal fly-fishing, cycling, jogging, hiking, boating on the Ruedi Reservoir, rafting, kayaking, and golfing at the nearby Roaring Fork Club. Its beautiful scenery can be appreciated at any time of year. Take a drive or bike ride along the Frying Pan River and marvel at the deep red rock formations in the Seven Castles area and large private properties along the route.
The town is also characterized by a creative arts culture with several galleries, a community arts center, and many resident artists. A vibrant music scene can also be found in local restaurants and at various outdoor concerts all summer long.
Today, the limits of Basalt stretch well beyond the downtown area. Located to the south and west along Highway 82 are Southside, the Basalt Design Center, and Willits Town Center — more recent developments that have greatly expanded Basalt’s residential, commercial, and service choice. The newest additions include a Whole Foods Market, several medical and professional offices, loft-style living, and the Westin Element Basalt-Aspen Hotel.
And Basalt is still growing — development along the Roaring Fork River and revitalization plans for the downtown core are currently on the drawing board.
Visiting tourists and those who call Basalt home don’t want for outdoor activities or a robust quality of life — and it’s all less than 20 miles from Aspen and world-class skiing.
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