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Water Wheel Inn - Gunnison, Colorado
From the Owner, Jim Valenzuela MD
Pitkin, Colorado: Gateway to the Alpine Tunnel
Pioneer Museum
Lodging Specials
Upcoming Events
From the Owner...
We hope you visit our excellent pioneer museum in Gunnison, Colorado. Engines and train reliquary and much more are on display.

In the early 1880's, the established Denver Rio Grande, the fledgling Denver South Park and Pacific Railroads were racing over the Rockies looking to Salt Lake City and trade stops beyond. Both companies were going down the Tomichi Creek (west from Monarch) to Gunnison. How they reached there from the east was the rub and the gamble.

The Denver Rio Grande chose the longer and lower Marshall Pass (think Poncha Springs and the Cochetopa, highway 114); the courageous little Denver South Park doggedly chose to tunnel through the Continental Divide between Quartz Creek to the west and Chalk Creek to the east (think boring through Monarch Pass.)... In winter... Ten degree below 'high' days... Tons of snow.

The "Shelf" Road on the way up
to the Alpine Tunnel
Station House at the top of
the Alpine Tunnel
The bore-through method led to the Alpine Tunnel, a fantastic piece of railroad engineering. The west portal is approachable by foot, bike (yabadabadoo), and ATV (great date adventure.) It starts in Pitkin, climbs the Quartz Creek and crosses original 'cribbing,' hand-cut and lain stone-and-mortar shelving. Yahoo!

Now, skip forward further west, subsequently the Denver Rio Grande set more narrow gauge track through the treacherous Black Canyon. we still see the rail shelf (pictured) while on the Morrow Point Reservoir boat tour, below Blue Mesa!

And, now, toot toot! welcome to Cimarron the exit from the Black Canyon for the Denver Rio Grande. Train engines on display there, too.

So much to see, ride and do on the Western Slope of Colorado. Hope to see you, too.

Jim Valenzuela

Pitkin, Colorado
Gateway to the Alpine Tunnel
An absolutely awesome way to spend half a day or more!  For an extra thrill, let someone drive you to the top so you can bike down!

The road is in good condition and is considered an "easy" drive, at least until you near the top.  Next to spectacular cliffs, the road crosses a narrow man-made terrace known as the "Palisades." The ledge is supported by a wall of hand cut native stones, two feet thick by 33 feet high and 425 feet long. The entire wall was dry laid without the use of mortar. A tribute to its talented builders, the wall remains today in the same relative condition as when first constructed in 1881. The Alpine Tunnel Historic District consists of a two hundred foot wide right of way along thirteen miles of original Denver, South Park and Pacific railbed between the town sites of Quartz (in Gunnison County) and Hancock (in Chaffee County). The District consists of property located on the Gunnison National Forest and the San Isabel National Forest as well as two separate parcels of private land.

The Alpine Tunnel Historic District is a joint Project sponsored by the Gunnison County Lodging Tax Panel, the Alpine Tunnel Historic Association, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Alpine Tunnel Historical District is normally open from July to September. 

Visitors to the District can follow a 10 mile auto tour. The auto tour (see map above) begins northeast of Pitkin at the junction of the Cumberland Pass Road (FDR 765) and the Alpine Tunnel Road (FDR 839).

For an outstanding account of the 10-mile Alpine Tunnel Auto Tour, visit the Narrow Gauge Circle website.

Pioneer Museum
The Museum grounds, its 18 buildings, the artifacts and memorabilia that make up the many displays, have been donated by generous members and friends of the Society. Most of the items on display date back to the early settlers. The Museums collections truly represent the cultural history and heritage of the people of Gunnison County. The D&RG narrow gauge Railroad came over Marshall Pass to Gunnison on August 6, 1881. The Denver South Park and Pacific came to Gunnison via the Alpine Tunnel a year latter on September 1, 1882.

The Museums narrow gauge train consists of the D&RG Engine #268, a flanger, a gondola, a boxcar, a livestock car and a caboose. A D&RG Water Tank, which was moved in 1071 from Marshall Pass, and the D&RG depot, also moved from Sargents in 1975, are situated along side the track. In addition to the Museum, the Pioneer Society also owns the Aberdeen Quarry which is located on Beaver Creek just a few miles from Gunnison. Granite from this Quarry was used in building the Colorado State capitol. As part of the summer program at the museum, Jeep tours are scheduled to provide an opportunity to visit the historical site.

From L to R: The Narrow Gauge on Cimarron Bridge, 1882; The Narrow Gauge on The Crystal River Bridge near Cimarron, 1882; D&RGW Engine in Cimarron, Colorado, 1998

Pioneer Museum: 803 E. Tomichi Ave., Gunnison, Colorado 81230

970.641.4530 Call for hours of operation
Open Memorial Day through Sept; Admission is $7

Lodging Specials

Check out all of our summer specials that include golf, fishing and more.
View All Specials

Bike to Mike's

Bike to Garlic Mike's and receive 2 for 1 drinks everyday and pasta dinners deals on Wednesdays with Live Music (only if you Bike to Mike's). Going on all summer.

Upcoming Events

Crested Butte Land Trust Wine & Food Festival
July 22nd - 24th

Writing the Rockies Creative Writing Conference
July 22nd - 25th

Wildflower hike with
Karen Immerso

July 28th

Crested Butte Open
August 1st

Plein Air Watercolor Workshop
August 6th - 8th

Beginning bird watching
with Jim Barry

August 11th

Asleep At the Wheel
August 19th

Cool Cars, Cool Mountains Gunnison Car Show
August 20th - 22nd

Octane Arts & Crafts Festival
August 21st

Chefs on the Edge
August 23rd

Off-Road Handcycling Championships
August 27th - 29th

More Event Information

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The Water Wheel Inn
37478 W. Hwy 50 - Gunnison, CO 81230
Toll-Free 1-800-642-1650 - Local (970) 641-1650

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