Sandwiched in between the Sangre de Cristos to the west, and the Wet Mountains to the east in Southern Colorado, a few miles west of Gardner, Colorado I came across the forlorn and tattered remains of an old settlement about a year ago. (I’m certainly not “on to” something new here, these ruins have appeared in books and in photos across the web for years.) Tucked in close at the foot of a rocky bluff near the Huerfano River, surrounded by ranches sat this little gem with no name. I have searched high and low for information on this settlement and have found a few, vague leads, but no definitive answer as to what this place was called…or if it was ever called anything.
According to Colorado Ghost Town aficionado Ken Jessen, for a short time in the late-1960s and early-1970s the site was occupied by members of a hippie community that named the site “Archuletaville” but the buildings were there long before the 1960s. When the hippies arrived, the buildings were being used as goat pens by a local rancher who agreed to let the hippies live at the site. This is the most recent account of the site’s history.
Prior to the arrival of the hippies and the establishment of Archuletaville, the site is shrouded in mystery. Many have claimed it to be the ruins of “Sharpsdale” an 1800s era supply stop on the route over Mosca Pass into the San Luis Valley. But evidence suggests that Sharpsdale was located nearby and closer to Tom Sharp’s “Buzzard’s Roost Ranch” which still stands today a few miles down the Huerfano from Archuletaville.
Another possibility is that the ruins are the site of Rito Oso an old Mexican settlement dating back to the era when Southern Colorado was still a part of Mexico. A walk through the broken and crumbling ruins at the site lend credence to this possibility- Clearly, some of the structures are newer and date to, or have repairs and improvements that were made in the “Archuletaville” era of the 1960s, but a look around reveals a handful of much, much older structures of stone, log and adobe brick at the site. A rough hewn log cabin without a single iron nail present, it’s logs splintered and dry rotted in a way that only decades of exposure to the elements can produce. Stone pens and sheds for animals. The location- Tucked in at the base of a bluff, on a prominence overlooking the vast plain of the Huerfano- An excellent defensive locale if you were concerned with attacks from roving Indians and bandits. Perhaps the most compelling evidence is the ranch across the road from the site which bears the name “Rito Oso” but nobody seems to know for sure what the ruins were called or when they date to. Does anyone out there know the facts about this enigmatic site on the Huerfano?