Palisade History

Palisade, located in the eastern end of the Grand Valley, was named for the austere and dramatic palisades–steep cliffs of Mancos Shale bordering the town. The sculptured appearance was formed by various geologic uplifts in the area combined with localized erosion and down cutting by the Colorado River. Mancos Shale is mudrock that accumulated in marine environments of the Cretaceous Inland Sea which retreated about 75 million years ago. The Mesa Verde geologic sands were stripped from the mountains and built up as beach sands and river beds.

The Mesa Verde geologic formation is also known for its thick layers of coal. In Colorado, coal was formed in the middle Cretaceous Times (144-65 million years ago). In Palisade, the Mesa Verde formation provides abundant reserves of highly valuable low-sulfur bituminous coal.

At the turn of the 20th century, coal mining was a big business and as important to Palisade’s early development as fruit growing. More than a dozen coal mines operated in the area. John Nichols opened the Cameo Mine in 1885 which later provided coal for the Public Service Company power plant built on the former Cameo town site in 1957. Most of the mines closed in the late 1950s when natural gas replaced coal for heating.

For well over 10,000 years, Native Americans used the abundant waters flowing in the Grand Valley. When the area officially opened to white settlement in 1882, pioneers not disappointed by the Valley’s desolate appearance saw potential–if water from what was then the Grand River could be captured through dams, diversions, and canals. The subsequent irrigation projects transformed the desert into one of the most productive agricultural regions in Colorado and the Intermountain West.

By the mid 1880s, it was apparent Palisade’s unique geologic location protects crops from spring freezes. The local climate is often referred to as the “banana belt.” The mild climate and unique terrain create near-perfect peach growing conditions in the approximate 10-mile area stretching from the tip of Mt. Garfield to the south end of East Orchard Mesa. Wind moves 8 to 12 mph down-slope from the north and is focused by DeBeque Canyon. This “million dollar wind” is compressed and warms the air to prevent crop-killing frosts in the spring. As the katabatic wind moves west – down valley – it spreads out and its warming affect diminishes. In addition, the palisades absorb warmth and help prevent frost damage. The mild climate, a 182 day growing season, plenty of sunshine and water through elaborate irrigation systems, dams and canals, make Palisade the “Peach Capital.” Mineral-rich soil and our 4,700 foot altitude–which means warm days and cool nights–are also credited for Palisade’s great tasting peaches. Palisade makes Colorado the 7th largest peach producing state in the U.S.

Though a winter kill in 1962-63 wiped out most of the existing fruit trees, and a severe winter in 1989 again damaged the fruit trees and wine grapes, our growers bounced back. Palisade also largely survived pressure to convert prime irrigated land to high-density housing in response to a series of energy booms on the Western Slope. More recently, demand for locally-grown produce increased the number of fruit trees as well as expanded crops to include wine grapes, hops, and lavender. Palisade is a popular destination for fresh fruit, especially peaches, as well as 25 of Colorado’s 140 wineries. It is also the only wine grape growing region in the world more than 1,000 miles from an ocean and at 4,700 feet above sea level.


Palisade History


Trees Lights Concrete (TLC) project complete. Local businesses, the Town of Palisade, and private contributions raise $93,000 to plant trees, install new lights and replace non-ADA compliant concrete sidewalks in downtown Palisade


Riverbend Park opens, located between former CCC & Migrant Labor Camps. Peach Festivals have been held here since 2003.


Last operating coal mine, Powderhorn/Roadside Mine closes in December.


Palisade Library moves from Municipal Building to an annex of the 1925 Palisade High School building as requested by the Town.


Town of Palisade celebrates its Centennial.


  • Memorial to Wayne N. Aspinall (1896-1983) is dedicated in Palisade Park
  • Town creates a plaza out of the parking lot on Main Street, once part of the site of Jordan’s Inn which burned in 1915

The 2010s

Palisade’s newspaper of record, The Palisade Tribune, is sold to the publishers of The Daily Sentinel in 2012. Two years later, in March 2014, the Tribune ceases to be printed. The community suffers from having no local news source. Palisade Historical Society negotiates for the archival newspapers in the building and then fundraises to get as many issues of the newspaper, beginning with the June 6, 1903 issue, digitized and available for research on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection website. Palisade has the only Medical marijuana outlet in Mesa County and voters approve retail marijuana stores in the November 2016 election. In addition to expanding into retail by the Medical Marijuana store, two more retail stores are authorized to sell marijuana by the Town Board.

Wineries continue to be a big attraction, though record peach crops continue to make Palisade a destination for tourists and locals. New crops grown in Palisade include lavender and hops.


Dennis Clark driving Clark Orchards wagon with parade Marshall Nick Babiak

Nick is a 4th grade student at Denver Public School Amos Steck Elementary who founded Colorado for the Palisade Peach in an unsuccessful attempt to designate Palisade Peaches as the state fruit.


Palisade Historical Society incorporates as a non-profit organization in March.


Palisade Library relocates to former Independent Lumber Company office building on Main Street.


  • Palisade Fire Department relocates to remodeled annex of the 1925 school on 8th Street.
  • Wineries are the biggest tourist attraction in the Grand Valley. Palisade has 19 of the 25 wineries in the area.
  • Colorado River Salinity Control Program Complete. 94 percent of all irrigated fields in the Grand Valley have salinity improvements


Stacks of newspapers in The Palisade Tribune office are sorted and placed into archival boxes.

The community is devastated when The Palisade Tribune, the newspaper of record since June 6, 1903, ceased publishing March 13, 2014. Palisade Historical Society volunteers sifted through the building’s contents to find and preserve original copies of the newspaper for reference and future digitizing. By August 2017, the Historical Society raised funds to get 1,707 issues digitized–over half the issues ever published from 1903 to 1966–added to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Database for online research.


  • The Palisade Tribune ceases publishing March 13 by the owners of The Daily Sentinel.
  • Palisade Historical Society volunteers work for months to save remaining original papers and begin lengthy process to digitize and make papers searchable and on line.
  • Legislation introduced to make Palisade Peaches official State Fruit fails to make it out of committee, due to pressure from Eastern Slope cantaloupe growers.


Palisade Historical Society celebrates 100th birthday of the dedication of the Grand River Diversion Dam on June 27 to call attention to the vital roll irrigation plays to our life in the Grand Valley. A crowd of 500 enjoys speeches, including from Congressman Scott Tipton, Bill Fitzgerald, great grand nephew of Wayne N. Aspinall, and others. Three birthday cakes were cut by Dorothy Carver Hines, who grew up at the Roller Dam, as her father was caretaker for 33 of the Dam’s 100 years. There was also a “Dam art show” with 43 “roller dam” centric entries, documentaries, videos, and information booths. Music throughout the day-long celebration featured Jeanie Thomas, Bookcliff Barbershop Chorus, and Way Down Yonder bluegrass band.