Sterling shines for visitors

By Linda DuVal

Colorado Explorer

The sound of a train whistle could be the official song of Sterling, the commercial hub of northeastern Colorado. Dozens of trains pass through every day—so many that a viaduct was built to expedite traffic crossing the busy tracks.

Long before the arrival of the iron horse, this was home to many tribes of Plains Indians. Later, trappers, travelers along the Overland Trail and railroad workers with their families passed through or settled here. The town was incorporated in 1884.

As you enter town from Interstate 76, there’s a well-stocked visitors center where you can pick up lots of helpful information. Right across the road is the Overland Trail Museum. Start in the original 1936 building and work your way into the newer spaces and eventually out into the courtyard, surrounded by authentic buildings from the era, including a church, schoolhouse and general store. Don’t miss the extensive arrowhead collection.

With about 14,000 residents, Sterling boasts a bustling downtown with lots of shops, a multi-screen movie theater and several good restaurants. Try the River City Grill, where you can get a lean slab of perfectly cooked prime rib or a gourmet treat like duck breast Marsala with mushrooms and grilled polenta. Locals like T.J. Bummers and the J&L Café for breakfast or burgers. And there are a handful of small Mexican restaurants, all reportedly good and inexpensive.

The interstate has spawned a whole herd of chain motels along the highway, but if you want a local treat, check out the historic Old Library Inn, a bed-and-breakfast situated in the former Carnegie library.

Several lovely local parks, including Columbine Park, are great places to stretch your legs and enjoy the shade on a hot summer day. Here, you’ll find a striking wood sculpture by local artist Bradford Rhea. You can see more examples of his work at the new library, on the campus of Northeastern Junior College and in several public buildings. Pick up a guide to Rhea’s public art in Sterling at the welcome center.

If you like fishing or water sports, bring a boat, jet skis or other watercraft to spend the day at North Sterling State Park. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, you might have to share the 3,000-acre lake with a few other boats. Fishing also is allowed on Prewitt Reservoir, west of town.

If you’re into hiking, birdwatching or just want an interesting driving tour, take the Pawnee Pioneer Trails byway through the Pawnee National Grasslands. (A previous Mini Tour of this byway is available at Choose the Sept/Oct 2005 issue from the “Back Issues” menu.) Watch for wildlife (swift foxes, coyotes, migrating birds) and be sure to stop and admire the Pawnee Buttes. Rising dramatically from the surrounding plains, they inspired scenes in James Michener’s “Centennial,” an epic novel based on Colorado’s history.

It might inspire you, too—to come back for another visit.

For information on visiting Sterling, call the Sterling Tourist Information Center at 800-544-8609.

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer and former travel editor in Colorado Springs.

From riverboarding to yard sales


The Fort Vasquez Museum, tucked between the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 85 at Platteville, is a bona fide historic site. Named for fur trader Louis Vasquez, it includes some authentic remnants of a historic trading post. 970-785-2832.

Just when you think you’ve hiked and biked every inch of the state, you hear about Hartman Rocks. Located just outside of Gunnison, this BLM recreational area has dozens of marked trails. Stay on the trails—at stake are threatened species and 5,000-year-old archeological sites. 800-274-7580.

In what water sport do you wear a sleeveless wetsuit, life vest, swim fins, helmet, shin guards and knee pads? It’s riverboarding, offered by Rip Board in Golden. It’s called “whitewater at face level” and it’s not for the timid. 866-311-2627.

Ripe for a celebration? Catch the state’s oldest community festival at Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs, June 18-20. This year, the city celebrates its 125th birthday. Parades, a carnival and strawberries in every edible form will be featured. 970-945-6589.

It doesn’t get much more down-home than the annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous in Craig, June 16-19. Whittlers from across the country come to show off. You can watch for free. Stay for the concert by Blue Oyster Cult—also free. 970-824-2335.

Looking for a bit of silly frivolity? Check out Lou Bunch Day in Central City on June 19. Named for the town’s last madam, there’ll be bed races, a parade, dances and a costume contest. This event, though a bit bawdy, is fun for the whole family. 877-282-8804.


When you name a restaurant Colterra—from Latin words meaning “cultivate the earth”—it’s not surprising that your restaurant would have its own vegetable and herb garden. At this new Niwot eatery, 15 minutes from Boulder, the on-site gardens help supply the seasonal menu. 303-652-0777.

You don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day to take your mom to tea. Next time you’re in Canon City, stop by the Queen Anne Tea House. Located in an 1889 Victorian-style home, it specializes in scones and fresh-brewed tea. There’s afternoon tea, and “high tea” is a hearty five-course meal. Beef Wellington, anyone? 719-275-5354.


Once, a whole series of resort hotels flourished between Manitou Springs and Cripple Creek. In Cascade, historic bed-and-breakfast Eastholme in the Rockies marks its 125th anniversary this year. Elegant and spacious, this luxurious six-room Victorian retreat has won numerous awards. 800-672-9901 or

Riding the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad train out of Antonito this summer? There aren’t a lot of accommodations or restaurants in town, so you might want to check out River’s Inn & Swiss Cottages. From 1907 to 1999, it was a private home. Now, it’s a four-room bed-and-breakfast with a European flair. Homemade breads and pastries are the star of the breakfast menu and you also can arrange a five-course dinner. 719-376-6029.


You can pick up an alpaca jacket or buy the raw goods to make your own at the 20th annual Estes Park Wool Market, June 10-13 in Estes Park. Everything from fleeces to cashmere, angora and yak fibers are for sale, along with novelty knits, yarns and ready-made items. Check out the demonstrations, from working dogs to spinning wheels. 970-586-6104 or

For 11 years, towns along U.S. Highway 50 have participated in a Coast-to-Coast Yard Sale in May. The idea is to create the largest yard sale in the world. In Colorado, several towns along the route participate, including Montrose and Poncha Springs. For a complete list of towns and dates, see

Linda DuVal

Upcoming events

1 May: Estes Park Duck Race, Annual rubber duck race down Fall River to Riverside Plaza. Downtown Estes Park. 970-577-9900,
1 May: Cinco-Cinco 5K walk/run and Kids Fun Run, CSU Oval, Fort Collins. 970-491-4847,
1–31 May: 63rd Annual Blossom Festival, Fremont Center for the Arts, Cañon City. 719-275-2790,
7–9 May: 22nd Annual Art & Jazz Festival, Main Street, Grand Junction. 970-245-9697,
8–9 May: 63rd Annual Gem, Mineral & Jewelry Show, Two Rivers Convention Center, Grand Junction. 970-255-9384.
9 May: Mother’s Day Mile, Glenwood Springs. 970-945-2632,
13–16 May: Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival, Cortez. 970-565-1151,
15 May: Brew Ha Ha, A celebration of Colorado Microbreweries. The Abbey, Cañon City. 719-275-2790.
15 May: 2010 All Colorado Bluegrass Music Festival, Douglas County Fairgrounds Events Center, Castle Rock.
15–16 May: Estes Park Jazz Fest and Art Walk, Performance Park Amphitheater, Estes Park 970-577-9900,
15–16 May: 3rd Annual Fort Collins Museum Indian Market, Old Town Square, Fort Collins. 970-221-6738,
15–16 May: “Barrel Into Spring” Wine Tasting, Two Rivers Winery, Grand Junction. 970-255-1471,
15–16 May: 10th Annual Indian Market, The Fort, Morrison. 303-839-1671,
28–31 May: 12th Annual Downtown Denver Arts Festival, The Denver Pavilions, Denver. 303-330-8237,
29 May: A Fanfare for the American Spirit, Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Denver. 303-832-4676,
29 May–5 Jun: Junior College Baseball World Series, Suplizio Field, Grand Junction. 970-245-9166,
1 Jun–31 Jul: John Fielder Exhibit, Fremont Center for the Arts, Cañon City. 719-275-2790,
5 Jun: 2010 Swap Meet & Car Show, Yuma Lake & Community Center, Yuma. 970-848-2704,
5–6 Jun: 8th Annual Denver Chalk Art Festival, Larimer Square, Denver. 303-685-8143,
5–19 Jun: 2nd Annual Churchill Cup, Infinity Park, Glendale. 303-539-0300,
7–27 Jun: 26th Annual Summer Music Festival, Colorado College, Colorado Springs. 719-389-6000,
9 Jun: Taste of Ouray, Ouray Community Center, Ouray. 970-325-4746,
11–12 Jun: Greeley Blues Jam, Island Grove Regional Park, Greeley. 970-352-3567,
11–13 Jun: Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Music Festival, Riverbend Park, Palisade. 970-925-1663,
11–13 Jun: Holly Bluegrass Festival, Gateway Park, Holly. 719-527-6622,
12–13 Jun: 13th Annual Taste of Fort Collins, Civic Center Park, Fort Collins. 303-777-6887,
12–13 Jun: American Indian Festival and Concerts, Rye United Methodist Church grounds, Rye. 719-676-3741,
13 Jun: 3rd Annual Doggy Dash, Nottingham Park, Avon. 970-688-0110,
13 Jun–18 Jul: Vintage Hats & Clothes Display, Kauffman House Museum, Grand Lake. 970-627-8459,
18–20 Jun: Denver Greek Festival 2010, Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Denver. 303-388-9314,
19–20 Jun: Art on the Arkansas, Veterans Park, Cañon City. 719-275-2790,
20 Jun: Father’s Day Fishing Derby, Harry A. Nottingham Park, Avon. 970-748-4060,
24–27 Jun: Country Jam Music Festival, Country Jam, Grand Junction. 800-780-0526,
25 Jun–4 Jul: Greeley Stampede, Island Grove Park, Greeley. 800-982-BULL,
26 Jun: Old Blind Dogs Concert, Swallow Hill, Denver. 303-777-0502,
26–27 Jun: Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, Bond Park, Estes Park. 303-449-9596,
26–27 Jun: 21st Annual Colorado Brewers Festival, Downtown Ft Collins. 970-484-6500,
26 Jun–6 Aug: Colorado Music Festival, Chautauqua Auditorium, Boulder. 303-449-1397,

15 May:
Spring Bear Powwow and Indian Market
Enjoy dancing, singing, frybread and food, and some of the areas finest artists selling their wares. Regis University Fieldhouse, Denver. 303-648-3414,
5 June:
23rd Annual Fishing Derby, Estes Park
The Fishing Derby is for all fishermen ages. Lake Estes is stocked with trout, mostly rainbows, from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Lake Estes Marina, Estes Park. 800-443-7837,
18–20 June:
Strawberry Days, Glenwood Springs
The crowning event of Glenwood Springs 125th birthday celebration. Sayre Park, Glenwood Springs. 970-945-6589,

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