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The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad proposed a rail diversion point called “South Arkansas.” In 1881, shortly after the rails reached the new town, the post office recommended a name change. Since the Arkansas River turns east and exits the valley nearby, the citizens accepted the Spanish word for “exit” with a local pronunciation – Sah-Lie-Da.
Although farms and ranches filled the valley, and mines sprung up in all directions, Salida became a railroad town. The Rio Grande built a full maintenance yard complete with machine shops, two round houses, and the official company hospital. The Rio Grande grew then shrank, and the last train rumbled through town in 1997. Salida felt the squeeze. Other industries also came and went, like limestone and granite mining, the smelter, and farming.
The Salida economy slowly shifted to tourism and outdoor recreation. The FIBArk whitewater competition started in 1949. Salida provides a gateway for downhill skiing, white-water sports, fishing and hunting, a hot springs swimming pool, wildlife and wildflowers, and mountains to climb. The historic buildings downtown house multiple art galleries. The Salida SteamPlant hosts music and drama performances.
Tenderfoot Mountain rises above the town and river, marked by a giant “S”. At night, the lighted “S” alternates with a heart symbolizing Salida’s geographic and metaphorical position as the “Heart of the Rockies.”