National Geographic : 1969 Aug
man-made wonders wrought more than six centuries apart: the Durango-to-Silverton narrow-gauge railway, and the brooding cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park. For three decades after the first locomotive arrived in Denver in 1870, daring railroad builders pushed narrow-gauge tracks into Colorado's canyons, across tumbling rivers and over high passes-wherever miners needed supplies and had ore to ship out. One lively specter remains of this colorful past-the Denver & Rio Grande Western's "Silverton," which last summer carried 90,724 passengers up the wild Animas River (pages 200-201). The 45-mile cliff-hanging ride delights children and aging railroad buffs alike. The stubby little steam locomotive chuffs and tootles up the grade, spewing coal smoke thick as wool, and wheel flanges sing around tight canyon curves. I sat in an open wooden coach beside a re tired depot agent from Wisconsin, who drew out a fat gold watch as we approached the old mining town of Silverton. "Right on time," he said with a smile. And as the hooting whistle and the hiss of steam proclaimed our arrival, he touched a knuckle to a glistening eye-irritated, I suppose, by a cinder. "Man," he said softly. "That's music!" Some 40 miles west of Durango a new miniature railway may be built through the stunted forests atop Wetherill Mesa, one of the high, flattened fingers that poke among the canyons of Mesa Verde National Park. The idea of a mini-train is being considered by Park Service officials to protect Mesa Verde's fragile environment from human erosion. Nearly 450,000 visitors a year pour onto Chapin Mesa to troop through famous Cliff Palace and other spectacular dwellings (page 169). The Park Service hopes to relieve this pressure by opening similar sites on nearby Wetherill Mesa sometime in 1971. Aided by National Geographic Society re search grants of more than $300,000, arche ologists spent five years, beginning in 1958, Fence-riding cowboys, awaiting their turn to perform, cheer a buddy as he bull dogs a steer amid a cloud of dust at the Ou ray County Fair and Rodeo in Ridgway. Members of the Rodeo Cowboys Associa tion, they travel from coast to coast to com pete for prizes in bareback bronc riding, saddle-bronc bucking, calf roping, steer wres tling, and Brahman bull riding. Last year's top winner earned nearly $50,000. Danger ous though their sport appears, the cowboys suffer few injuries.