Museum Blog

Buckskin Joe

By Kaleb Dugat

Buckskin Joe was a western-style theme park located west of Canon City, opened in 1957 and closed in 2010. It was a re-creation of the Buckskin Joe mining camp. The mining camp once reached a population of 2,000 people. In 1942, only the Tabor Store and one of the old gambling halls were standing in the mining town. It was named Buckskin Joe after Joseph Higginbottom, who mined the first gold in the town. 

Karol Smith, Don Tyner, and Malcolm F. Brown invested $100,000 to reproduce Buckskin Joe. They acquired buildings from real ghost towns in Colorado and moved them. When they moved the buildings, they counted every log and only replaced the decaying materials so the rebuilt buildings were the same. Some of the buildings were donated by the owners because they wanted to preserve their history. Every structure there represented a building from the Buckskin Joe Mining Camp.  However, the only building from the mining camp was the Tabor Store – operated by H.A.W Tabor as a grocery store. 

The theme park was originally built mostly for movies. There were many movies filmed there including: Vengeance Valley, Saddle the Wind, The Cowboys, The Duchess and The Dirtwater Fox, and Cat Ballou. Cat Ballou was the first movie to be filmed there 5 years after it was built.

Buckskin Joe billboard, 1958. Object ID: 1994.035.4158; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Buckskin Joe street scene, 1958. Object ID: 1994.035.4136; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Buckskin Joe, July 1962. Object ID: 1994.035.4192; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
“Chuck & Orpha’s Saloon”, Buckskin Joe, 1968. Object ID: 1994.003.128; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Melodrama at Buckskin Joe, ca. 1959-1965. Object ID: 1994.035.2470; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Scenes from “The Cowboys” with John Wayne, 1971. Object ID: 1994.035.4059; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

3 thoughts on “Buckskin Joe

  1. Buckskin Joe was an early mining town albeit short lived. The altitude of Buckskin just in itself made it challenging. Some of my direct ancestors were there. They eventually move to nearby Alma & other flourishing mining camps & towns over the folliwing years.
    It was a good thing that some of it was preserved in the 50s but sad it was sold in secret to people of money rather than remain in Fremont County. Thankfully the assembling of Buckskin Joe included compiling a record of where the building originated.
    I appreciate your fine work & others at the Museum & History center.

  2. I still think Canon City should have bought it, and made it a part of the Royal Gorge Park. Such a loss of this towns History, that could have been saved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *