Once the biggest Old West Theme Park, Buckskin Joe now just a memory

Dubbed the largest authentic Old West Theme Park in the nation, Buckskin Joe opened in the summer of 1958 and was a smashing success. With no admission costs, the town was a hit with locals and tourists alike. Newspaper articles report thousands of people making Buckskin Joe a weekend destination with packed parking lots before 10 a.m.

Original buildings from old forgotten western towns were restored and lined the street, selling gifts, antiques, and refreshments. Hotel and saloon fronts boasted a few original pieces of furniture used by pioneers, as well as replicas. Instead of modern vehicles traveling down Main Street, horses, stagecoaches and wagon replicas lined the tourist-filled streets as employees milled about in authentic western garb.

If the sights and sounds of the western town did not transport you back to the wild west, then the shows were sure to and were often based on historical events. Shootouts with outlaws and duels were an hourly occurrence in the mining town and tourists were even offered opportunities to pan for gold. A western experience would not be complete without a train ride, and Royal Gorge Scenic Railway located at Buckskin Joe did not disappoint. The three-mile trip on the 15-inch narrow gauge track offered breathtaking views of the Royal Gorge and Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

Buckskin Joe was not only a hot spot for tourists but also fulfilled the dream as a legitimate western town movie set. Some movies filmed on-site included, “Barquero,” “Cat Ballou,” “Conagher,” “How the West was Won,” “Lightning Jack,” “Saddle The Wind,” “The Cowboys,” “The Duchess and The Dirtwater Fox,” “The Sacketts,” “Then Came Bronson,” “True Grit,” Vengeance Valley and more. Movies were not the only form of media at the site, several local and national commercials also were filmed there, as well as photoshoots.

After a decline in tourists, the 30 buildings that made up Buckskin Joe left the area as they arrived 50 years ago — board by board. Purchased for $3.2 million by billionaire William Koch in 2011, the old western buildings were disassembled and moved to a ranch near Gunnison to be part of his private Western lore collection.

Read more about Buckskin Joe’s long history on our sister paper Cañon City Daily Record.

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