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A new stunning Custer County heritage and historical Digest for exploring the Wet Mountain Valley

The Custer County Tourism Board is pleased to announce the release of a new guidebook—Custer County Past & Present: A Historical Digest for Exploring the Wet Mountain Valley.

The entire guide can be viewed by clicking this link

The guidebook, which highlights the Wet Mountain Valley’s fascinating history, replaces the 16-page Custer County Then & Now Historic Touring booklet published in 2007 by Little Publishing Company. The new guidebook is produced in full color and is proudly printed in Colorado at Schuster’s Printing in Pueblo. This project was made possible by the 2% lodging tax revenue that funds Custer County Tourism.

Tourism Board Chair Deb Adams coordinated the guidebook’s creation, and Shelly Larson of Jo Studio, Inc. designed the 28-page, magazine-style booklet. Larson’s beautiful layout showcases a downtown walking tour and highlights the county’s ranching heritage, historic ranches, special places, pioneer cemeteries, and even the movies made in Custer County.

Local photographer Scott Dankof shot most of the present-day images in the guidebook, including a spectacular image of the Milky Way over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that graces the back cover and features the heavens above with our beautiful dark skies.

Ranching plays a prominent role in the guidebook as it has been the bedrock of the Wet Mountain Valley economy since the 1800s—Custer County is home to 11 Centennial Ranches, all of which are located in or near Westcliffe, Colorado.

Willdra Walker Ruzanski, a descendant of ranching settlers who arrived in the 1880s, welcomes everyone on the first page. Willdra grew up in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spent most of her time on the Walker family ranch. For nine years, she wrote a column for the Wet Mountain Tribune titled “Tales and Tidbits,” which garnered Ruzanski three Colorado Press Association Awards. A few of her favorite tidbits are spread throughout the guidebook. Willdra’s daughter, Vanette “Sudzy” Benesch, helped in acquiring historic photos from other ranching families.

Available online resources contributed to the content, including History Colorado, Colorado Historical Society, and the Denver Public Library. Genna Calkins, Collections Coordinator of the West Custer County Library, provided many of the historical images that are featured in the centerfold Photo Album. “This is the wonder of photography, to have moments in time preserved for generations. Going through the historic collections of the county was a peek into the past. Unfortunately, we are not well-documented in the archives,” stated Deb Adams, a retired professional photographer who organized the photo selection in the booklet.

Starting Memorial Day weekend, Custer County Past & Present: A Historical Digest for Exploring the Wet Mountain Valley can be picked up for free at the Welcome Center at 107 N 3rd St. After June 1, copies will also be available at the Westcliffe and Silver Cliff Town Halls, West Custer County Library, Wet Mountain Tribune and at other shops throughout town.

A new Town Map will also be available for distribution and can be picked up at the Welcome Center. For more information on the guidebook or other literature created by the Tourism Board, contact To learn more about everything there is to see and do in the Wet Mountain Valley, go to

– Press release by the Custer County Tourism Office

Click here to visit the amazing tourism board website!
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