The midvalley’s community is stronger than ever.
Basalt sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Fryingpan and the Roaring Fork.
When the Lake Christine Fire ignited just outside of Basalt town limits in the summer of 2018, flames crept so close that it appeared it might burn in entirety. It was a terrifying moment for residents and put the entire Roaring Fork Valley on notice for the real threat that wildfires can have here. Hundreds of firefighters worked relentlessly to extinguish the fire, which eventually burned nearly 12,600 acres and destroyed three homes.
Now, the charred hillside above town and much of Basalt Mountain is a daily reminder of that summer, and just one more piece of Basalt’s long history in the valley. A mining town founded in 1882, Basalt (originally Aspen Junction) was an intersection where the Colorado Midland Railroad spur to Aspen departed and went to Leadville over the treacherous Hagerman Pass in one direction, and to Aspen and Glenwood in the other.
After its mining and railroad town eras, like much of the valley, it transitioned to a ranching community. Eventually, as Aspen grew and extended its economic fingers, Basalt evolved again into a bedroom community for Aspen.
Now, the midvalley—Basalt, neighboring unincorporated El Jebel and Missouri Heights—is one of the more active parts of the Highway 82 corridor stretching from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Whole Foods opened in Willits Town Center in 2012, followed by the Element Hotel in 2015, anchoring a commercial center that continues to be developed with restaurants, bars, retail, health and wellness centers, and a forthcoming arts and cultural center. So much is happening here, a local newspaper, Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, launched in 2018 to specifically cover the midvalley area.
Downtown Basalt’s Midland Avenue was once a stop for trains.
The quaint historic downtown has seen a cultural and culinary revival, with its popular Sunday market and slew of new restaurants and cafes, including Mod’s Thai House; CC’s Cafe (opened by longtime employees of Aspen’s beloved and now-defunct Peaches Cafe); and Skip’s Farm to Market store, serving fresh produce from the Western Slope. And with nonprofits like the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, with its brand-new, state-of-the-art-facility at the gateway to downtown, Basalt is an official hub for some of the world’s most progressive environmental conservationists.
Photography by: C2 Photography/Courtesy of Basalt Chamber