History of Elk Falls Ranch
Initial access to the area came as a result of the discovery of gold in South Park in 1859 and the rush was on to reach the area. There were no roads at the time, only a few Indian trails. John Parmalee constructed the first road from Morrison to the Pine area along Turkey Creek in 1867. It was narrow and dangerous. In 1878, the first railroad reached Pine and Buffalo Creek and Leadville in 1879. It was one of the busiest rail lines in Colorado connecting what were the two largest cities in Colorado at the time, Denver and Leadville. In the late 1800's the federal government gave away property in the area via land grants and the Homestead Act to individuals who agreed to live on and improve their land. Several individuals, including Anton Glassman, Richard Pomeroy, and Samuel Cunningham owned land in the area that would later become part of Elk Falls Ranch. In 1908 John C. Jensen, founder of the McCoy-Jensen nursery in Morrison, purchased 320 acres from Charles Brown. Jensen added land from Samuel Cunningham and others and by the early 1920's owned a total of 2,200 acres. Elk Falls Ranch was developed by John Jensen and later expanded by Elmer and Sally Berg. After taking a train from Denver, Mr. Jensen would meet guests in Pine and take them by buggy up Elk Creek to his home. After his death in 1924, his Elk Falls property was inherited by his children including Alice (Sally) Jensen who married Elmer Berg, a Denver businessman. The Bergs consolidated and added to the Elk Falls property. In the 1930's and 1940’s the area was used, among other things, as a summer camp for boys and girls operated by the Denver Athletic Club. Elmer and Sally Berg also operated the Elk Falls Sportsmen’s Club which allowed member access to Elk Falls, Lion’s Head, hiking trails, fishing, several cabins, and a lodge with slot machines and a restaurant.
The Elk Falls Ranch subdivision
The first attempt at subdividing part of the Elk Falls Ranch property, called Elk Falls Park, sold only four or five lots. The 100' x 100' lots were arranged on a rectangular grid with straight access roads – an arrangement that worked well on paper but didn't work very well across the hills and valleys of Elk Falls Ranch where building straight access roads was impossible. Elk Falls block 1, which overlaid most of the original Elk Falls Park subdivision, was subdivided in 1959 and blocks 2 and 3 were subdivided during the next few years. Meanwhile following the deaths of Elmer and later Sally Berg, the remaining Elk Falls Ranch property was acquired by the Elk Falls Development Company which owned and maintained the property for approximately another 40 years. In 2006 they sold the "upper ranch" north and west of the subdivision including slightly over 1000 acres to the state (using GOCO [lottery] funds) to become part of Staunton State Park. The "lower ranch" south of the subdivision including approximately 400 acres was sold in 2008 to Drayton and Vera Dunwody who renamed it Lower Lake Ranch. The Elk Falls Ranch subdivision residential area includes nearly 150 homeowners and approximately 350 acres of land.
Entrance easement: In February of 2010, Drayton and Very Dunwody, owners of the adjacent Lower Lake Ranch, blocked the main access route into the subdivision with boulders. Following an immediate injunction forcing their removal and a three-year court battle, access rights were confirmed and made permanent.
Staunton State Park
The eastern portion of what is now Staunton State Park was left to the state by Francis Staunton in 1986. Nearly two decades later the "upper ranch" portion of Elk Falls Ranch, including Lion’s Head and Elk Falls, and a portion of the Davis Ranch to the east of the Elk Falls Ranch portion was purchased using GOCO (lottery) funds for inclusion into the park. The Park was finally opened to the public in May of 2013. The park is home to elk, deer, bear, mountain goats, and mountain lions. The park has excellent hiking, biking, and riding trails and some of the most spectacular scenery you will find in the Denver area. Beyond Staunton lies the Pike National Forest.