Welcome to our series “Small Footprint – Big Impressions”. We are exploring the biggest tiny towns in America. We especially love finding small towns with a big story. Since we travel full time in our RV, we’ve discovered there isn’t a lack of tiny towns with amazing stories. So we are seeking them out to share with you! Since we camp for free most of the time, we will also share our boondocking location with you on every post.
You’ll love this town! Once called Grand Encampment by French-Canadian trappers who rendezvoused along the Encampment River, this small town has a rich history. Encampment is located on the Colorado / Wyoming boarder. We stumbled upon this tiny town pretty much by mistake, as we had no idea how fascinating this small town story was. We love history, but for me, I must be able to see it and not just read about it.
In 1897, copper was discovered in the Sierra Madre Mountains just above this quiet settlement, and soon hundreds flocked to the area to get their share of the mined riches. A smelter was built along the river, and an incredible (for its time) tramway was built. This tram ran for sixteen miles from the mining site in the mountains down to the smelter. The tramway, the longest in the world at the time, was considered an engineering marvel and carried 840 buckets that held as much as 700 pounds of ore each.The tramway traveled at 4 miles per hour to move the ore from the mine to the smelter. There were three cable stations each approximately four miles apart. The cable operation was powered by wood fired steam engines. The tram could carry almost a thousand tons of ore a day. But it took about 8 hours for one bucket to complete the round trip journey.
The Grand Encampment Museum is really a trip back in time. They have a collection of over a dozen historical buildings filled with artifacts representing the timber, mining, and agricultural history of the Encampment valley at the turn of the 20th century. You don’t just have to read about it. You can walk through the buildings and get a feel for how they lived back then. The tour is free, as well as the museum.
The End of Encampment
In 1908 a series of fires at the smelter caused setbacks there, and many people left. Property values fell, and today the population in Encampment is only 450 people.
This is such a fun town! The free tour of the historic buildings was our favorite. Walking through the buildings gives you such an overwhelming feeling of how different life was back then, and also how much has changed. It made me wonder how much will change in the next hundred + years and how someday our great-grandkids might be looking at our life thinking how different it was.
Fun fact about Encampment – Grand Encampment was organized and incorporated with that name in 1897, but postal regulations required that the “Grand” be dropped.
Free Camping in Encampment
I’m not sure if you can essentially call this boondocking, since this hidden gem had free full hookups! Including sewer, water, electric and large dumpsters available for trash. Also there are bathrooms available. Limited to 3 days stay, but that’s plenty of time to explore this great town. GPS coordinates on picture!
Thank you for stopping by and reading our blog series “Small Footprint ~ Big Impressions”. There is so much more to come! Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any posts. Have you seen our other series “Off the Beaten Path” where we shared over 400 hidden gems in the US to see? Click here to check out that series! Let us know if you have any questions, and if you have any small town suggestions for us, we’d love to hear about them!
Live Simply ~ Give More ~ Expect Less