Cañon City, Colorado

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

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Cañon City, Colorado is a great tourist destination in south central Colorado and one of the only cities in the country with a “ñ” in its name (pronounced “canyon”). Cañon City attractions include whitewater rafting and rock climbing.

The Royal Gorge Railroad powers through the bottom of the Royal Gorge outside Cañon City, Colorado. (Matt Inden/Colorado Tourism Office)

The city straddles the Arkansas River about 120 miles south of Denver on U.S. 50. Like many Colorado towns, Cañon City began during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. It was intended to be a commercial center for miners in the area.

The area is (or was) rich in natural resources, which has kept it going over the years. Oil was found at a depth of 50 feet six miles out of town in 1862 to open the first commercial oil well west of the Mississippi. Gold was found in the area as well, in Cripple Creek in 1891.

The biggest modern attraction in the area is the Royal Gorge Bridge. This is the highest suspension bridge in the world, hanging over 1,000 feet above the churning Arkansas River below.

The Royal Gorge theme park occupies over 350 acres. The bridge itself spans 880 feet (268 meters). The bridge is 18 feet across, and made with 1,292 wooden planks.

After you’ve overcome your fear of heights at the gorge, tackle the river rapids for one of the most exciting trips of your life.

Take a tourist train through the Royal Gorge to gawk at the tiny bridge above, if you can’t handle the rapids. The train leaves from the depot in Cañon City on a regular basis. And even though it’s a historic train, it offers pretty plush accommodations.

Cañon City is also home to the Dinosaur Depot, with plenty of local archeological finds to entertain dinosaur lovers of any age. Don’t forget to ask for directions to a self-guided dinosaur hike not too far from town.

The Museum of Prisons is the place for criminal history buffs. The museum is appropriate because Cañon City is the home to nine state prisons and four federal prisons.

Annual festivals include the Blossom Festival, which celebrates the harvest of cherries and apples in the area. Delicious!

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