Walks Camp – Colorado Ghost Town
by local author & historian: John LaBorde
On the east end of the SH 71 correction line curve, CR 3T goes behind a farmhouse on the corner. Going on east is the oasis of the high plains, Walks Camp. Driving down the road one would notice the roof line that rises over the ridge. For on second glance, it is not a barn or shed sticking up above the rise, but a grandstand roof line. What is that doing out here in the middle of somewhere but close to nowhere?
First thought would be a rodeo arena out in the country. Go down to the intersection with CR 27 and north a bit for a closer look and there it is, a huge old grandstand looking out over the pasture. It is not a rodeo arena but a ball field. Pulling in the parking lot and with closer examination one can see the plow discs that mark the bases, the pitcher’s mound that is flat and bare, and home plate marked by a couple of barren depressions. The base paths are overgrown with buffalo grass. Nowhere close by are any towns yet there it is, a onetime grand ball field.
Walks Camp got its beginnings back in the early 1870’s. A German Baron came over to the America’s for a buffalo safari. Along with his entourage the German went to Denver, got outfitted for their buffalo safari, and took the train out east to hunt buffalo.
They unloaded their gear and equipment and headed for the high country around the head waters of the Arickaree River. A level spot protected by ridges, a few trees, and water. Here Herr Walks set up camp for his buffalo hunting expedition. For a few years other hunting parties ventured into the area and camped here. It became known as Walks Camp.
Soon the buffalo were gone and settlers were moving in. Homesteads were filed, homes were built, schools established, and churches built in the area. Walks camp was a nice area and settlers would go to this area for gatherings on the summer holidays. Baseball was a popular game at the turn of the previous century and at these picnics a baseball game would happen. Some of the early pioneers got together and decided to build a nice ballpark with a grandstand. Construction began and out of the pasture a grandstand indeed arose.
School children would have school picnics there and they would plant trees in the newly built park. The Arickaree was a small stream and provided good water for the trees. The school children would each dig a hole for their tree. They would also have a small glass jar and put their name in the jar. Along with the tree, this jar with their name in it was planted with the tree. Today the park has a good sized grove of trees along the creek.
For the national holidays of the summer, people would travel to Walks Camp to celebrate. There would be plenty of food, deserts, games, fun, visiting, and, of course, there was always the ball game.
The crack of the bat, cheers from the seats, running, yelling and the inevitable discussion, was he out or safe. Baseball on the prairie was a pastime that had no peer. Here it was to have fun. There were no fancy baseball gloves, sometimes no gloves at all. Maybe a work glove to ease the shock some. If the bat broke, get the friction tape out, pound a nail or two in, and tape the bat up, batter up. A new ball was rare. Usually a few years old and maybe a torn seam but the game went on. Bases were improvised but accurate. The ball field was set up correctly with all the dimensions accurate. It was a big league ball field in the pasture. No, there were no cow chips in the field.
Nearby country schools would also go to the park for their end of school year picnics. There were celebrations at the former hunting camp. Later a barrack from the Hugo CCC camp was moved up the park for indoor use.
No longer are there big country celebrations at Walks Camp. For the most part, it sits silent through the year.
Sit in the grandstand and listen to the sounds in the rafters. Look out over the field at the bases, watch the pitcher wind up, hear the crack of the bat, listen to the crowd roar. Watch the ball sail out into the outfield, players running, ball retrieved, thrown back to the infield, the umpire yells “SAFE”, and the crowd roars.
Long gone are the sounds yet the memories float overhead. The memorial of Walks Camp stands in quiet repose. Today the trees reach skyward, an arching canopy over the Arickaree making cool shade. The school children long gone that planted so many of them. Many went to the big city a few are in the cemeteries nearby.
Across the creek on far bank is the farmer’s place that owns the property. He takes care of it and oversees the land. It is still used today for special occasions, weddings, parties or reunions. And a few photographers still like using it for backdrops.