The Town of Crestone is a Statutory Town in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 127 at the 2010 United States Census. It is a small village at the foot of the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Range, in the northern part of the San Luis Valley. Crestone was a small mining town, but little paying ore was discovered. In the 1970s, a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established to the south and west and several hundred homes have been built.
The Crestone area, which includes the Baca Grande and Moffat, Colorado, is a spiritual center with several world religions represented, including: a Hindu temple, a Zen center, a co-ed Carmelite monastery, several Tibetan Buddhist centers, and miscellaneous New Age happenings.
Crestone is easily accessible to visitors, a National Forest Service campground is about 3/4 of a mile north of town, and other lodging is available, including several bed and breakfasts. Activities in the area include camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, as well as spiritual explorations.
Crestone is named for the 14,000-foot peaks that lie just east of the town: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. The Crestones, as they are known collectively, in turn, took their name from the Spanish word crestón, which, according to Walter Borneman and Lyndon Lampert's book A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, means: “the top of a cock’s comb”; “the crest of a helmet”; or, in miners’ jargon, “an outcropping of ore”.
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The first settlement in the Crestone area occurred after the American Civil War with the granting of the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4 to the heirs of the original Baca Grant at Las Vegas, New Mexico. Title to the grant at Las Vegas was clouded by a second grant of the same land. The Baca heirs were offered alternative lands from the public lands of the United States. The square tract selected is 12.5 miles (20.1 km) on a side south of Saguache County Road T south of Crestone. The Bacas deeded the land to their attorney, but it soon passed by tax sale to a third party. The ranch headquarters were on Crestone Creek to the southwest of Crestone. The Baca Grant was one of the first large tracts of land to be fenced in the West and in its heyday was the home of prize Hereford cattle.
In addition to ranching there was some mining in the area to the east and south of Crestone of small shallow iron oxide copper gold ore deposits. In 1880 the town of Crestone was platted by George Adams, the owner of the Baca Grant. In 1900, with the help of Eastern investors, George Adams ignited a minor boom, reopening one of the more promising gold mines and building a railroad spur to the town and the mines along the Range south of town. However, lacking good ore, the boom was short lived. A long period of decline followed.
By 1948 Crestone had declined to its post-war population of 40, mostly retirees and cowboys who worked on the Grant, as the Baca Grant was called. Many of the old cabins were used as vacation homes. By 1971 the Baca Grant came into the ownership of a corporation which subdivided a portion of the Grant, creating the Baca Grande, a subdivision originally platted for about 10,000 lots. At great expense, underground utilities were installed and roads built. However, sales lagged and by 1979 the development was considered a liability by the corporation. Maurice Strong, owner of a controlling interest and his fiancée, Hanne Marstrand, visited the development and "fell in love with it." They were inspired to create a world spiritual center and began granting parcels of land to traditional spiritual organizations.
The population gradually began to increase and by 2006 several hundred homes had been built and a number of small spiritual communities had become established. As the Baca Grande contained no provision for business uses, Crestone became the business center of the community and having enacted a small sales tax was in a position to finance further improvements.
Crestone is located near the 38th parallel, in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. It is platted on a quarter section of land (160 acres; 0.6 km²) on the alluvial fan of North Crestone Creek. Much of the land near the creek, the main part of town, is well watered in normal times, but during a prolonged drought the creek may dry up and underground water levels may fall.
In more technical terms, Crestone is located at (37.995792, -105.699757).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2), all of it land.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
The following is derived from the US census and covers only the town itself, thus giving a misleading idea of the area. About half of the homes in Crestone itself are used only on a seasonal basis. The Crestone community, is much larger, consisting also of several hundred homes in the Baca Grande subdivision, the surrounding rural area, and the small town of Moffat, Colorado which hosts one of the local schools. (There is also a charter school)
As of the census of 2000, there were 73 people, 45 households, and 18 families residing in the town. The population density was 290.8 people per square mile (112.7/km²). There were 79 housing units at an average density of 314.7 per square mile (122.0/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.89% White, 4.11% from other races. 1.37% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 45 households out of which 8.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.9% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.0% don't fit into the above categories. 48.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.62 and the average family size was 2.22.
In the town, the population was spread out with 8.2% under the age of 18, 4.1% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 45.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52 years. For every 100 females there were 102.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.0 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $31,250, and the median income for a family was $40,000. Males had a median income of $22,813 versus $27,917 for females. The per capita income for the town was $22,291. There were 18.8% of families and 19.7% of the population living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and none of those over 64.
Little Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Mission
Kit Carson Mountain from Crestone in November 2010
Chorten near Crestone
Little Pearl Park, a pocket park
Crestone Mercantile, an Affiliated Food Stores member store
Curt's Store, a health food store, now repurposed as the Elephant Cloud, still a health food store
Tree house near the creek. Curt's cow is on top of the tree house.
Clothing bins in the Crestone Free Box
Grove of Rocky Mountain Juniper cut in 2013 to clear the site for an office building
Crestone has become internationally known as a locus for a large number of many different religious and spiritual traditions. Accommodation of spiritual pilgrims and eco-tourists is the major industry in Crestone. Crestone's development as a spiritual center was initiated by Maurice Strong, a multimillionaire businessman and United Nations Undersecretary, and his wife, Hanne Marstrand Strong. Using land acquired from the corporations Strong controlled they established the Manitou Foundation and Manitou Institute, which, according to its website, "provides and grants and some financial support in Crestone/Baca, Colorado, to qualified religious and spiritual projects." Grants of land from the foundation were made to a number of spiritual centers in the area.
Spiritual centers in Crestone:
|Christian||The Spiritual Life Institute and Nada Hermitage Retreat Center||Roman Catholic (Carmelite)|
|Buddhist (Zen)||Crestone Mountain Zen Center founded by Zentatsu Richard Baker||Sōtō|
|Buddhist (Tibetan)||Chamma Ling founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche||Bön|
|Dharma Ocean Retreat Center founded by Reginald Ray||Karma Kagyu|
|Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang founded by H.H. the 16th Karmapa||Karma Kagyu|
|Mangala Shri Bhuti founded by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche||Nyingma|
|Vajra Vidya founded by Thrangu Rinpoche||Karma Kagyu|
|Yeshe Khorlo founded by Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche||Nyingma|
|Yeshe Rangsal Retreat Center founded by Tsokyni Rinpoche||Drukpa Kagyu|
|Hindu||Haidakhandi Universal Ashram||Haidakhan Babaji|
|Sri Aurobindo Learning Center||Sri Aurobindo|
|Temple of Consciousness Ashram||Humanity in Unity|
|Other||Academy of On||Academy of On|
|The Shumei International Institute in Crestone Colorado||Shumei International Institute|
The Crestone End of Life Project provides open-air cremation and end of life support. CEOLP is a non-denominational community-based group promoting informed end-of-life choices and supporting their fulfillment. Cost is modest but is available only to the 1,000 or so people who live in the local community.
The Annual San Luis Valley Energy Fair is held in Crestone's town parks over Labor Day weekend each year. The fair features ideas and products that relate to environmental sustainability such as solar power and straw bale construction as well as booths offering food and local products. Crestone hosts an annual Artists Open Studio Tour during the first weekend in October, allowing for visits to the many artist's studios in the area. Food and local products are offered regularly at the Saturday Market which happens in the middle of town on Silver Avenue every Saturday during the summer. Crestone has a free box which is enthusiastically supported by the community.
Crestone has historically been a deer park; Mule deer are commonly seen grazing in yards in town. Black bears are also common, but usually only at night when they raid apple trees and the dumpsters at the cafes and stores in downtown Crestone. In 2011 a bear with two cubs was frequently seen during the day. This bear, which was generally well-behaved other than raiding trash, was killed by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources following a bear attack on a tethered goat. Local sympathizers complained bitterly the wrong bear had been killed, receiving extensive coverage through Channel 9 in Denver which was distributed nationally by the Associated Press, prompting an investigation of the incident by the Division of Parks and Wildlife and possible re-evaluation of management of bears in mixed rural-urban communities such as Crestone. An internal investigation by the Division of Parks and Wildlife came to the conclusion that the right bear had been shot.
The campground stretches 0.7 miles up a mountain along North Crestone Creek. It is rustic with camping sites nestled among Aspen, juniper, fir and other riparian-loving trees. Because the sites are so far apart each has a feeling of secluded wilderness camping with few of the inconveniences. The campground is convenient to a public golf course and the interesting village of Crestone.
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