Reliving history one mile at a time

Historian spent summer offering historic walking tours of downtown Yampa

It is amazing what you can learn walking around your own town. It's even more amazing what you can learn in a one-mile loop.

Rita Herold, a college professor and Routt County history aficionado, decided to share her wealth of knowledge and a little bit about the history of Yampa by walking. In June, she created a guided tour of the town and has since led people from Arizona, North Carolina, and of course, Yampa, on her walking flashback of history.

"Depending on what people are interested in, I can modify the walk, but we try to hit all the major buildings that made Yampa the town it is today," she said.

Herold's tour includes stops at the Yampa jail, which was never intended to hold prisoners, the Ladies Aid Hall, and the Van Camp cabins, the oldest buildings in Yampa.

Thursday morning was warm and a perfect day for getting acquainted with the traditions and memories of the town.

The small group of people that showed up to take the tour included a man from Steamboat Springs who was looking for a good excuse to ride his new motorcycle, a woman who has spent her summers in Yampa since 1972, and her daughter and grandson, who were visiting from Boulder.

Even though Herold always would like to see more people, she was happy to disperse her knowledge nonetheless.

"The bank actually went bust during the Depression, and now it is our town museum," Herold said, pointing to the yellow building that now houses a plethora of donated artifacts from Yampa's yesterdays.

Herold talked about the architectural designs of the community, noting how the changing styles can be seen just by walking from one block to the next.

Herold is proud to say that her family was among the first homesteaders who established Yampa. Her family settled into the area in 1885. The first building in Yampa was built in 1882.

Nancy Keyes, a part-time summer resident of Yampa, said she was glad to take the tour to learn more about her summer home.

"I learned a lot, especially about the early part of the town's history," she said.

Keyes' claim to Northwest Colorado fame is the fact that the city of Vail and Vail Pass were named after her grandfather, Charles D. Vail. Keyes had another grandfather who built the first house in Golden.

Keyes agreed with Herold about how important it is to preserve your family history and to always remember it.

Herold said she collected most of the information she has about Yampa by doing hours of research and also by speaking with the people who helped make Yampa history.

"People have been great about sharing with me," she said.

Most Yampa residents know bits and pieces of the history, Herold said, but very few have a complete knowledge of how Yampa has grown throughout time.

Jennifer Keyes, Nancy's daughter, said she thought the walking tour was a good idea because it makes history tangible.

"You learn history better when you get to see the things yourself and you aren't just reading it out of a text book," she said.

And that is exactly what spurred Herold to create the tour. As a child, she hated history because it was all names and dates. She said a lot of her inspiration in putting together the tour was remembering the stories her father and grandfather used to tell her about their lives.

"Those got me hooked," she said.

Herold is working hard to collect the information that is available about Yampa because most of the local history in the county focuses on Steamboat.

"There is so little written about this area that I am trying to collect it all before it's gone," she said.

Unfortunately, Saturday was the last walking tour in August, but Herold still encourages people to frequent the Yampa-Egeria Museum and to see how much they can learn by just taking a few steps around town.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz. Call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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