Colorado Byways Receiving National Attention

News Release

April 30, 2020 - Southwestern Colorado

CORTEZ – Two of Colorado’s Scenic & Historic Byways are being recognized for enhancing preservation and communications, along with boosting tourism and economic development.

The National Scenic Byway Foundation presented the Trail of the Ancients Scenic & Historic Byway* in southwestern Colorado with this year’s Public-Private Partnership Award for the new McElmo Creek Flume Interpretive Stop along U.S. 160 near Cortez.

“Making this interpretive stop a reality could not have been accomplished without the tremendous support the Byway received from all the entities that were involved in this partnership,” said CDOT’s Scenic & Historic Byways Program Manager Lenore Bates.  “And the timing worked out to be a win-win since the flume restoration and overlook construction occurred at the same time.”

The McElmo Creek Flume is the only surviving flume of the original 104 built in the 1890s as part the Montezuma Valley Irrigation System.  It continued functioning until 1992, when McPhee Reservoir began serving the area.  However, the flume required preservation work before it could be properly exhibited as a water conduit.  More information is at:

In southern Colorado, the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway** between Trinidad and Walsenburg received honorable mention from the Foundation in the Marketing and Communications category for Best Use of Technology.  The TravelStorysGPS is a self-guided, audio tour app that allows travelers to hear local experts tell the story of how the igneous rock formations were created more than 25 million years ago, along with information about the byway’s history, wildlife, culture and legends.  More information is at:

McElmo Scenic Byway rest area

McElmo Creek Flume Interpretive Stop   

McElmo Byway

McElmo Flume (Credit: Colorado Preservation, Inc.)


Legends Byway

Along the Highway of Legends - CO 12

 Cordova Arch Byway

Cordova Arch along the route between CO 12 & Aguilar

*Established in 1996, the 116-mile Trail of the Ancients highlights both the remote archaeological sites and significant cultural and historic sites of Southwestern Colorado.  In addition to Cortez, this byway links Mesa Verde National Park, the Four Corners and Hovenweep National Monument via Highways 160, 491, 41, 145, 184 and county roads CC and 10.  It also is designated as one of America’s Byways®, roads recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation that have one or more of six "intrinsic qualities": archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. Eleven of Colorado’s 26 byways are designated as America’s Byways, which gives Colorado more national designations than any other state.

**Created in 1989, the 82-mile Highway of Legends Scenic Highway was one of the state’s first byways.  It includes unique geological, cultural, and historical features and a myriad of legends, from the Native Americans, Spanish Conquistadors, and the pioneers, miners, trappers, and ranchers who explored and settled this region.  In addition to Trinidad and Walsenburg, the byway connects La Veta, Monument Lake, Trinidad Lake State Park and Lathrop State Park via Highways 12 and 160.  It includes a 35-mile extension, connecting Highway 12 and Aguilar over Cordova Pass.