Laurel Watson, curator of the Hayden Heritage Museum, with her book "Yampa Valley Sin Circuit: Historic Red-Light Districts of Routt and Moffat Counties" at the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Saturday.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Laurel Watson, curator of the Hayden Heritage Museum, with her book "Yampa Valley Sin Circuit: Historic Red-Light Districts of Routt and Moffat Counties" at the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Saturday.

Author on Yampa Valley's seedy history visits Craig

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A steady stream of visitors stopped by the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Saturday to talk about some of the untold and lesser-known stories of the Yampa Valley’s past.

Laurel Watson, curator at the Hayden Heritage Museum, was at the museum to do a signing of her first book, “Yampa Valley Sin Circuit: Historic Red-Light Districts of Routt and Moffat Counties.” Watson’s book focuses on some of the more sordid historical details that came with settling Northwest Colorado, in the saloons and brothels that came along with the mines and Moffat Railroad.

Her stop at the Museum of Northwest Colorado was the latest in a series of signings and presentations she’s done in Steamboat, Hayden and Craig, with more engagements planned in Moffat and Routt counties up until county fair time, she said.

“It’s been going really well,” Watson said about the reception to the book. “It’s been kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s been exciting.”

In Craig on Saturday, patrons came for the book and the majority stayed and chatted with the author about her work and her findings.

“It’s great to be able to talk to people about it,” Watson said. “A lot of people are interested in local history and I think there’s a growing interest in more of the untold local stories.”

Reading about those new stories was why Howard Morris, of Craig, came by Saturday. A first-time visitor to the museum, Morris said it was Watson’s title that piqued his interest.

“I used to be in Leadville and the whole sin circuit, it was huge in Leadville and I thought it was fascinating,” he said. “It had to be huge out here with the mining and the railroad being built.”

Morris said he hoped to read some stories that he could turn into a song eventually.

According to Watson’s research, the saloon keepers at the time were spending the equivalent of $50,000 per year on their establishments and still pulling in money. Those stories as well as the stories of gambling and prostitution can be found in “Yampa Valley Sin Circuit.”

“Those guys were making some serious money,” she said. “It was really fun to research and write. Hopefully, I’ll have another book on something else cool.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.

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