The lands that he loved inspired many of Louis L’Amour’s ideas that led to his old western novels. Among those lands, were properties of Southwest Colorado tucked within the San Juan and La Plata mountains. In fact, Louis L’Amour is known for developing plans for an old western-style town within his very own Colorado property, known as Shalako Ranch. On his private ranch, L’Amour envisioned a working village typical of those of the 19th-century Western frontier. His plans included buildings with false fronts situated in rows on either side of a central street and bordered by extensive boardwalks before which, would be watering troughs and hitching posts. Today, visitors will find remnants of the cabins that he had built on his ranch that is now known as Sword of Truth Ranch in Hesperus, Colorado near Durango and Mancos. With the beauty that these lands boast, it’s no wonder that many of his novels spoke of fantastical gentlemen’s ranches where many of his famous novel conflicts would take place such as in his book, Passin’ Through. The town named Shalako was planned to have featured shops and other businesses that were typical of such western towns: a barber shop, a hotel, a dry goods store, one or more saloons, a church, a one-room schoolhouse, etc. The result of this prop town was to host as a set for many of the movies based on his novels.
“I’m actually writing history. It isn’t what you’d call big history. I don’t write about presidents and generals… I write about the man who was ranching, the man who was mining, the man who was opening up the country.” — Louis L’Amour
Beyond the utter beauty of his Shalako Ranch, Louis L’Amour’s inspirations for his novels grew with his exploration of the lands. The history behind his Colorado ranch is what makes these lands such an asset to the people of historic Durango, CO. Louis and his family were found to spend many summers at the historic Strater Hotel and Shalako; both became locations where many of his books were written. If in the area, visiting these memorable and unique places of Southwest Colorado will bring any audience of Louis L’Amour’s much closer to his drive and motivation as a famous novel writer. When there, breathe, relax, and take in those views!