Seven Falls is the only waterfall in Colorado listed on National Geographic’s list of International Waterfalls. The Colorado travel website encourages visitors to “visit Seven Falls, where authentic Colorado awaits.” But what about Seven Falls makes it an authentic heritage site of Colorado? Is it the natural beauty of the water and rocks, or is it how a once natural site has been commercialized and turned into a money attraction that is natural to Colorado?
Seven Falls is a breathtaking waterfall located in South Cheyenne, Colorado. The waterfall, located in a natural box canyon, is part of Colorado’s Front Range. The canyon and waterfall combined make up the beautiful scenery that Colorado has been known for since the first European settlers laid eyes on the Rocky Mountains. Seven Falls is actually made up of 5 smaller falls that look like one giant waterfall. Driving up the road to the waterfall visitors encounter the Pillars of Hercules, 900 feet tall rock pillars that mark the entrance to the canyon. Visitors then see the falls cascading over the canyon wall.
The beauty of Seven Falls has attracted visitors for centuries. Nathaniel Colby’s homestead included Seven Falls in 1872. He sold his land to the Colorado Springs Land Company. Fearing logging would ruin the scenery, James Hull bought the property in 1882. By 1883 travelers were making Seven Falls a destination point, paying a small toll to access the falls. In 1903 Callidore Dwight Weimar bought the falls and turned it into a business. The falls changed hands several times during the twentieth century. Each owner made the site more accessible to tourists. Lights were installed in 1947 along with an elevator to the top of the falls, a park in the 1950s and colored lights in 2002. Currently the Broadmoor hotel owns the falls and manages the restaurant, gift shop, and audio tours that are now part of Seven Falls.
Researching Seven Falls does not show why they are considered an authentic Colorado heritage site. I argue that it is the natural beauty of the water and the canyon that makes the falls a Colorado heritage site. Colorado is known for its natural beauty. That beauty, manifested in the falls, has attracted visitors for years. While it is the natural beauty that attracts visitors, Seven Falls is another example of how the natural world has changed as a result of tourism. Much like Garden of the God’s, a place that starts out attracting people solely because of its beauty ends up as a site of commercialization. Visitors come to Colorado seeking natural beauty, but they leave with more memories of the gift shop and restaurants. Colorado heritage sites have gone from sacred spaces of natural wonder to just another place to check off a bucket list.