Tourism numbers in Cripple Creek are up despite the High Chateau fire burning about 10 miles outside of town. Kelly Branyik, the Marketing and Events Coordinator for the City of Cripple Creek, said the number of visitors so far this summer is greater than last year and getting close to 2016 numbers.
"2016 is probably one of our best years overall," she said. "Last year we had a significant amount of rain so, it kept people from coming here to Cripple Creek to visit us."
In addition to sizable crowds brought to town by the local casinos, Branyik credits the communities seven museums and other attractions like the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and the Cripple Creek-Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad with bringing new visitors to town.
"We hope that someday it can be more of a historical, authentic western town and the most popular authentic western town in the US, that’s our goal," she said.
At more than 9,000 feet in elevation, the City sits on a plateau surrounded by a half dozen mountain peaks. Members of the Jackson family, who are visiting from Dallas told us the scenic drive along State Highway 67 was breathtaking.
"In Texas, you don’t get to see this," she said. "Riding up here was beautiful. I’ve never seen so many mountains and so many trees on the mountains. So, it was a great experience."
OC Jackson also appreciated the scenery but had different hopes from his Colorado vacation.
"It’s just, I really wanted to go snowboarding but no snow this time."
Even though the fire doesn’t seem to have driven away many visitors, Branyik said it’s still on people’s minds.
"I’ve been taking calls all week from people asking if it’s safe to come here if highway 24 closed, and I’ve had to reassure people it’s fine."
Nearly full containment of the fire couldn’t come at a better time as a number of summer events are just around the corner. The Victor Gold Rush Days will begin July 20, and the Cripple Creek Veterans Rally is coming up on August 17.