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NRCCS was established in 2001--but it was formed then, and is today, by the environment and history of the area.

A wilderness of rivers and forests lush with game attracted Ute Indians to summer in the region. In time, mountain men, explorers, and trappers arrived. Trappers called the local mountain “Old Baldy,” perhaps because of its distinctive low timberline. Later, it was named Hahns Peak, after the first gold prospector, Joseph Hahn.

Gold lured miners to pan creeks and start the first permanent settlement, mining district, and post office in northwest Colorado. The town still boasts original homes and cabins established during its “boom” years, but by the late 1800s the mining boom was over. Stalwart miners and the homesteaders who followed, turned to ranching—which became the primary way of life.(Thanks to the Hahn’s Peak Historical Society for this bit of history.)

Routt County came into existence in 1877 and was named in honor of John Routt, the last territorial and first state governor of Colorado. Clark, where NRCCS is located, is an unincorporated community.  

Over time, outdoor recreation grew along with ranching. Today, residents enjoy the area’s landscape in all its seasons and embody the independent spirit of earlier adventurers:

  • Hahns Peak, named after John and Joseph Hahn, businesspeople in the mining industry (and an extinct volcano) where many of our students have skied, hiked and studied geology;
  • Steamboat Lake State Park, where our students have learned about ice safety and built snow caves--and gone cross country skiing and fly fishing, among many other activities;
  • Pearl Lake, Hahns Peak Lake (both have great fishing!);
  • Elk River, where we conduct our River Watch studies

(River Watch is a statewide volunteer water quality-monitoring program operated in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife {CPW}. Voluntary stewards monitor water quality and other indicators of watershed health and utilize this high quality data to educate citizens and inform decision makers about the condition of Colorado’s waters. This program is unique in its statewide focus and frequency of data collection.)

  • The hundreds of hiking trails, mountain lakes and peaks too numerous to name. Almost all of our families have walked, hiked, camped, fished, skied, snow shoed at least one of these!
  • Guest ranches, including Home Ranch, Vista Verde, Elk River Guest Ranch and Columbine Cabins, just to name a few.

As you travel to the school and drive around, you’ll see many ranches, including one owned since 1949 by the Fetcher family. John Fetcher was a graduate from Harvard University and interested in living in the West. He and his brother purchased the ranch, and he learned the ranching business by experience. At the same time, John became one of the most noted water experts in the state of Colorado and was instrumental in water storage and use planning. Several water storage projects have come to be through John Fetcher’s work, among them Steamboat Lake. 

He was also one of the world’s experts on ski jump design and was one of the founders of the Steamboat Ski Area and helped clear and install the first lifts. The same hard work he put in on his ranch also went into making the ski area successful. The Fetchers have been leaders in land conservation and were one of the first ranch families to put protective easements on their holdings. (Thank you to the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs for this biographical information.)John’s children went to the original Clark School in the 1950’s and the Fetcher great grandchildren attended NRCCS! 

Schools in the northern corner of Routt County, affectionately called North Routt, have had a long history. The original schoolhouse in Hahns Peak is on the National Historic Registry. When it closed, one opened up in Clark on Route 62 around the corner from where we sit today. That’s where the Fetcher children attended seven decades ago. Over time, the school closed and all kids in North Routt were bused into Steamboat (and that’s before Route 129/Elk River Road was fully paved!)  The original school bell was saved by John’s son, Jay, and stored for many years (but more on that later.) For pictures of historical structures in the Clark area, including two schools, visit the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

In 2001, families in the North Routt community banded together to again create a neighborhood school, driven by:

  • The distance and drive time to Steamboat Springs if residents were to attend elementary or middle schools in town;
  • The continued growth of families in the North Routt area; and
  • An education vision and philosophy that would enhance the sense of community.

And so the old Clark School became the new North Routt Community Charter School. Literally. We started in the same school house which had been turned into a family home for a number of years, and was now a school again! We then expanded from the home into the adjoining barn for upper elementary students and later added a yurt as a classroom for middle school grades. 

Since the founding of the school, the need has not changed. The North Routt Community united around the established charter school and it continued to grow. Additionally, NRCCS has become a “school of choice” by families who live within the Steamboat Springs city boundaries—families who prefer the size of the school and/or its educational approach.

In 2012, NRCCS moved into its current facility, financed by a State-provided BEST grant and local matching funds.  It’s a state-of-the-art LEED platinum-certified building with two unique touches:

  • The original school bell was returned by Jay Fetcher in 2015, refinished and now hangs outside the school. 
  • We added a new yurt as a classroom for outdoor education and art -- another nod to our past!