Horsetooth's Drowned Ghost Town
By Edeker Merritt 1 November 2022
47.5 is a town population that does not seem quite right- however, it’s a population that’s recognizable by many Colorado locals.
If you’ve visited the southern end of Horsetooth Reservoir, you may have seen the sign proudly sporting this number. You may not have known what it meant, but you may have recognized the feeling of something old and abandoned- and possibly haunted.
Beneath the water of Horsetooth lies a ghost town. Stout, Colorado was a humble quarry town in the 1800s. The town thrived during the 1880s, and the sandstone they dug was used to build the Colorado Capitol building and shipped to Chicago. At its peak, Stout was host to hundreds of citizens,
a post-office, blacksmith shop, and boxing matches.
However, towards the end of the 1880s, Stout’s business prospects began to suffer. Across Colorado, cities began using asphalt, rather than sandstone, for roads and buildings. With growing competition and shrinking investments, citizens and workers found it more and more difficult to remain in Stout. In 1893, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and National Cordage Company, two of the country’s largest employers, collapsed, setting off a national economic crisis. Stout was hit hard by this crisis, and many left the town to find jobs elsewhere.
Though the majority of residents had left, the town remained into the 1940s. However, Stout’s struggles were not over. In 1946, the United States Bureau of Reclamation claimed the schoolhouse as their headquarters. As part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the valley that Stout sat in was to be flooded.
The end of Stout, Colorado, came in 1951, when the valley was turned into Horsetooth Reservoir. After the town was abandoned and the area flooded, all that was left were building foundations, and a now-iconic sign reading, ‘Stout, Colo. pop 47 ½.’
Though the town is long gone, the evidence of Stout’s sandstone in still-standing buildings is a testament to the small but lively place. The next time you visit Horsetooth Reservoir, if you happen to feel a shiver, remember that small town that remains under the water.
Eddy Merritt is a junior at Poudre High School. She is the head author of Cacophony blog, and this is her first year writing for Poudre Press. She is deeply involved in Fort Collins culture and is inspired by the work her peers do. You can check out her blog, Cacophony, here.
McKissick, Nathaniel. “The rise and fall of Stout, Fort Collins' forgotten town.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 15 November 2021, https://collegian.com/articles/news/2021/11/category-news-mckissick-the-rise-and-fall-of-stout-fort-collins-forgotten-town/. Accessed 1 November 2022.
“Panic of 1893.” Ohio History Central, https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Panic_of_1893. Accessed 1 November 2022.
“Stout: the town site under Horsetooth Reservoir: News Flashbacks.” Fort Collins History Connection, https://history.fcgov.com/newsflashback/stout. Accessed 1 November 2022.