Johnson Stage Stop, CO 2019
A once-bustling stop for weary travelers seeking gold and more near the banks of the Gunnison River in Colorado’s high country
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PROJECT PARTNER: Bureau of Land Management
SESSION DATES: June 2-7 | June 9-14 | June 16-21 | June 23-28
ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE TIMES: Plan to arrive between 5pm and 7pm on the first day of your project session, and depart after lunch on the last day. Work will generally start around 8am each day, and we’ll wrap up around 4pm.
LOCATION: Mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and branches of creeks and rivers full of fish will beckon volunteers to this site set deep in the Colorado Rockies, just north of Lake City and south of Gunnison and the Curecanti National Recreation Area. We’ll camp nearby at a comfortable BLM campsite (no hookups). The campground can accommodate tents, popup campers, vans, and trailers less than 20′ long.
GOOD TO KNOW: No prior experience is required. HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, and equipment for volunteers on this project. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from the lodging site. If a project requires a commute, we will plan to carpool to and from the jobsite. More general information is at the bottom of this page.
HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.
Project Site Description & History
Even by today’s standards, a saloon can be a welcome sight after a long day of traveling.
During a boom in western expansion, this site, located between Lake City and Gunnison, CO, offered several services to stagecoach riders and drivers, gold hunters, and others looking for respite in the wilderness. As railroad travel gradually overtook stagecoaches circa 1890, the happening Johnson Stage Stop (which was then owned by the Carr family) reinvented itself as a ranch and homestead – modifying and reusing buildings for new purposes. Several Carr family generations continued to operate the ranch. The site’s historic structure assessment shares, “Instead of abandoning the stage stop buildings, the Carrs renovated them as required for their ranching needs; even still, the buildings retain much of the historical character dating back to Charlie Johnson’s original construction. The site’s usage echoes the colonization and evolving prosperity of this region, and the history of the site is one with the history of the Gunnison Valley, and much of the American West as a whole.”
“The history of the Johnson Stage Station and Carr Ranch is wedded with the history of the Gunnison Valley. Located strategically at a regional transportation hub, the site served as a stopping point for countless travelers, and was a focal point of colonization of the region. Even with the railroad phasing out the stagecoach industry, the site prospered due to its location in the Gunnison Gold Belt, and existed as a key part of the Gunnison Gold Rush in the 1890s. As the gold rush dwindled, the site’s transportation based economy transformed into one based on ranching, an economy which became a staple of the Gunnison Valley culture and economy even in the modern era. How the inhabitants used the site’s buildings reflect the structures’ role in the history of the region as well, evolving from a saloon and bunkhouses to an elaborate ranch complex. The Carr family, in their early history in the region, wore many hats: as prospectors, stagecoach drivers, store owners, tie hacks, loggers, ranchers, and farmers. All of these professions are united with the history of the region. The Johnson Stage Station and Carr Ranch parallel the patterns of settlement in the Gunnison Valley on a smaller scale, and substantiates this property as a historical site worthy of preservation. The distinct character of the site has been well retained over the years” (Johnson Stage Stop HSA).
History buffs can read the extensive and detailed story of the site and its inhabitants here.
ANGLERS TAKE NOTE: Wake up just before dawn to fish the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River near our campsite. Fishing blog “The Catch and the Hatch” writes of this stretch, “A longer river than it looks, there is ample access in both the lower sections and the upper sections. The river is good fishing when the flows are right and if you spend your hours on this river and find some of the less pressured water, you can find some sizeable fish. All four species of trout call this river home and it makes it fun to fish since you won’t know what you’re going to catch while you’re there.”
Scope of Work
Volunteers will work alongside expert field staff to learn the following skills to preserve the Johnson Stage Stop so it can continue to serve as a site of historical interpretation. Much of the buildings are in a relatively advanced stage of deterioration, so this project will be a great one for those wanting to practice and develop their skills with log work!
- Regrade soil to provide drainage around building: 10%
- Rebuild drystack stone foundations: 10%
- Repair log walls: 20%
- Replace roof logs: 20%
- Rebuild roof decks and install waterproof sheathing: 20%
- Use local soil to recreate earthen roofs: 20%
Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.
Logistics & More
- Read our Volunteer FAQ! If you still have a question that’s not answered there, above, or below, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help.
- Each project session has one volunteer slot for a Kitchen Helper. If you’re interested in lending our Crew Leader & Camp Chef a hand in meal preparation, choose the “Kitchen Helper” position when you register. Kitchen Helpers are welcome to participate on the preservation work if they like, but are not necessarily expected to.
- Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own tent (unless indoor lodging is provided), as well as sleeping gear and other personal gear including sturdy work clothes and work boots. Volunteers are also responsible for their own transportation to and from this project.
- All volunteers are required to review and agree to the HistoriCorps Waiver & Release and Code of Conduct during the registration process.
- We help you prepare for your preservation project through providing a “pre-arrival packet” via email. The packet contains a lot of information like: logistics, safety precautions, a suggested packing list, benefits for volunteers, and more.
- HistoriCorps projects are multi-day sessions, where you will develop your skills over the course of the session, as well as build camaraderie with your crew and make a significant contribution to the preservation of this building. We can only very occasionally accommodate volunteers who require a shorter session. Please email us at email@example.com for more information.
We are always ready to answer your questions. Once you register, expect us to be in touch a few times before your project begins to confirm attendance, offer advice, and share updates. Thank you always! Really, we can’t do it without you.
The Carr Family
Historic map of Johnson Stage Stop
Segment of a deteriorated roofing system
Cabin #2, one of our worksites
Some of the remains of the Johnson Stage Stop
Lake Fork of the Gunnison, our home waterway for the duration of this project
The nearby-yet-remote Uncompaghre Wilderness is managed by the BLM, our project partner.