Everybody knows the hit animated sitcom South Park, which follows the day-to-day lives of a group of foul-mouthed teenagers from the town of South Park. Depending on age and preferences, people either love or hate the odd characters from South Park, but few members of the public know the fact that South Park is a real place, albeit not a town, situated in Colorado.
The real South Park is a mountain valley, or a high intermountain grassland basin, as geographers call it, situated around the headwaters of the South Platte River, about 60 miles from Denver. In 2009, the South Park valley was designated a National Heritage Area by the federal authorities, to protect the wild life and the untouched natural formations found in this area. South Park is one of the three high valleys found in the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado, the other two being the North Park and the Middle Park.
The South Park area covers more than 1,000 square miles of sparsely populated terrain, although there are a few towns in the basin, most notably the town of Fair play. It’s interesting to note that none of the towns in the areas bears the name South Park, although during the colonization period there was a settlement with this name.
The history of this part of Colorado goes back to the wild times of the Gold Rushes. In 1859, a prospector found some gold nuggets in one of the stream that feeds into the South Platter River, marking the beginning of the gold rush in South Park. People came from great distances to try their luck at finding the so-called placer gold – small pieces of precious metal found in the sand carried downstream by the mountain waters. Later, the South Park basin became known for silver mining, an activity that sustained the area economically up until the 1950s.
Today, tourists come to South Park to enjoy the beautiful sights offered by the Rockies and to get a taste of the life during the times of the Old West. Most of the visitors choose the town of Fairplay as a starting point, where there are plenty of places for lodging and eating. One of the biggest attractions found nearby Fairplay is South Park City, an accurate recreation of a Gold Rush age town, complete with a bank, living houses and, of course, a saloon.
Visit the beautiful South Park area, a pristine patch of land in the heart of Colorado, where the memory of the Old West is kept alive!