The first documented discovery of gold in Colorado was in 1858, when a group of prospectors found gold near present-day Denver. This discovery led to the Pike's Peak Gold Rush and a population boom in the area.
Costilla County, located in the southern part of Colorado, has a rich and vibrant history that spans hundreds of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Ute, Apache, and Comanche peoples, who utilized the region's natural resources for hunting and gathering.

In the late 16th century, Spanish explorers, led by Juan de OƱate, ventured into the area and established several settlements, including the town of San Luis, which is now the oldest continuously occupied town in Colorado. These Spanish settlers brought with them their language, culture, and Catholic religion, which still have a significant influence on the county's identity today.

During the 19th century, Costilla County became a part of the Colorado Territory, attracting many pioneers and fur traders. The county's rich mineral resources, particularly gold and silver, led to a surge in mining activity in the late 1800s. Towns such as Sangre de Cristo and Mesita flourished as mining centers, driving economic growth and population expansion in the region.

In the early 20th century, Costilla County's economy diversified with the emergence of agriculture, particularly farming and ranching. The county's fertile soil and moderate climate proved conducive to growing crops such as wheat, potatoes, and hay. The establishment of irrigation systems further enhanced agricultural productivity and drew more settlers to the area.

Today, Costilla County maintains its agricultural heritage while also embracing tourism and natural resource management as key industries. It is known for its stunning natural landscapes, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Great Sand Dunes National Park. The county continues to attract visitors from around the world, who come to explore its history, enjoy outdoor recreational activities, and experience its unique blend of Hispanic and American cultures.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Costilla County, Colorado.

  • 1851: Costilla County is established as one of the original 17 counties in the Colorado Territory.
  • 1861: The territory of Colorado is officially recognized by the United States government.
  • 1870: The San Luis Valley Land and Immigration Company begins promoting settlement in the area, attracting many Hispanic settlers.
  • 1913: A major flood damages several communities in the county.
  • 1965: The Great Sand Dunes National Monument is established in Costilla County.
  • 1979: Costilla County becomes the first county in Colorado to adopt a comprehensive land use plan.
  • 1981: The Great Sand Dunes National Monument is redesignated as a National Park.
  • 1992: The historic town of San Luis is designated as a National Historic District.
  • 2002: The Trinchera Blanca Ranch, one of the largest privately owned ranches in the United States, is purchased by a conservation organization.
  • 2010: Costilla County celebrates its 160th anniversary.