Crestone, CO – spiritual center

Crestone is named for the 14,000-foot peaks that lie just east of the town: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. The Crestones, as they are known collectively, in turn, took their name from the Spanish word crestón, which, according to Walter Borneman and Lyndon Lampert’s book A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, means: “the top of a cock’s comb”; “the crest of a helmet”; or, in miners’ jargon, “an outcropping of ore”.

Crestone has become internationally known as a locus for a large number of many different religious and spiritual traditions. Accommodation of spiritual pilgrims and eco-tourists is the major industry in Crestone. Crestone’s development as a spiritual center was initiated by Maurice Strong, a multimillionaire businessman and United Nations Undersecretary, and his wife, Hanne Marstrand Strong. Using land acquired from the corporations Strong controlled they established the Manitou Foundation and Manitou Institute, which, according to its website, “provides and grants and some financial support in Crestone/Baca, Colorado, to qualified religious and spiritual projects.” Grants of land from the foundation were made to a number of spiritual centers in the area.

Spiritual centers in Crestone:

Religion Organization Sect
Christian The Spiritual Life Institute and Nada Hermitage Retreat Center Roman Catholic (Carmelite)
Buddhist (Zen) Crestone Mountain Zen Center founded by Zentatsu Richard Baker Sōtō
Buddhist (Tibetan) Chamma Ling founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche Bön
Dharma Ocean Retreat Center founded by Reginald Ray Karma Kagyu
Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang founded by the 16th Karmapa Karma Kagyu
Mangala Shri Bhuti founded by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche Nyingma
Vajra Vidya founded by Thrangu Rinpoche Karma Kagyu
Yeshe Khorlo founded by Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche Nyingma
Yeshe Rangsal Retreat Center founded by Tsokyni Rinpoche Drukpa Kagyu
Hindu Haidakhandi Universal Ashram Haidakhan Babaji
Sri Aurobindo Learning Center Sri Aurobindo
Temple of Consciousness Ashram Humanity in Unity
Other Academy of On Academy of On
The Shumei International Institute in Crestone Colorado Shumei International Institute

The Town of Crestone is a statutory town in Saguache County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 127 at the 2010 United States Census. It is a small village at the foot of the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Range, in the northern part of the San Luis Valley. Crestone was a small mining town, but little paying ore was discovered. In the 1970s, a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established to the south and west where several hundred homes have been built.

Crestone is easily accessible to visitors, a National Forest Service campground is about 3/4 of a mile north of town, and other lodging is available, including several bed and breakfasts. Activities in the area include camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, as well as spiritual explorations.

The first settlement in the Crestone area occurred after the American Civil War with the granting of the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4 to the heirs of the original Baca Grant at Las Vegas, New Mexico. Title to the grant at Las Vegas was clouded by a second grant of the same land. The Baca heirs were offered alternative lands from the public lands of the United States. The square tract selected is 12.5 miles (20.1 km) on a side south of Saguache County Road T south of Crestone. The Bacas deeded the land to their attorney, but it soon passed by tax sale to a third party. The ranch headquarters were on Crestone Creek to the southwest of Crestone. The Baca Grant was one of the first large tracts of land to be fenced in the West and in its heyday was the home of prize Hereford cattle.

In addition to ranching there was some mining in the area to the east and south of Crestone of small shallow iron oxide copper gold ore deposits. In 1880 the town of Crestone was platted by George Adams, the owner of the Baca Grant. In 1900, with the help of Eastern investors, George Adams ignited a minor boom, reopening one of the more promising gold mines and building a railroad spur to the town and the mines along the Range south of town. However, lacking good ore, the boom was short lived. A long period of decline followed.

By 1948 Crestone had declined to its post-war population of 40, mostly retirees and cowboys who worked on the Grant, as the Baca Grant was called. Many of the old cabins were used as vacation homes. By 1971 the Baca Grant came into the ownership of a corporation which subdivided a portion of the Grant, creating the Baca Grande, a subdivision originally platted for about 10,000 lots. At great expense, underground utilities were installed and roads built. However, sales lagged and by 1979 the development was considered a liability by the corporation. Maurice Strong, owner of a controlling interest and his fiancée, Hanne Marstrand, visited the development and “fell in love with it.” They were inspired to create a world spiritual center and began granting parcels of land to traditional spiritual organizations.

The population gradually began to increase and by 2006 several hundred homes had been built and a number of small spiritual communities had become established. As the Baca Grande contained no provision for business uses, Crestone became the business center of the community and having enacted a small sales tax was in a position to finance further improvements.

Crestone is located near the 38th parallel, in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. It is platted on a quarter section of land (160 acres; 0.6 km²) on the alluvial fan of North Crestone Creek. Much of the land near the creek where the main part of the city sits, is well watered in normal times, but during a prolonged drought the creek may dry up and underground water levels may fall.

In more technical terms, Crestone is located at 37°59′45″N 105°41′59″W (37.995792, -105.699757).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2), all of it land.

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