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The valley was inhabited by the Ute people prior to the coming of the first U. S. settlers over Independence Pass in 1879.
The first settlers were prospectors looking for silver in the wake of the Colorado Silver Boom in nearby Leadville.
Aspen flourished as a mining community in the late 1880s and early 1890s until the silver crash of 1893.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, coal mining in the valley of the Crystal emerged as an important extractive industry, one that has nearly entirely vanished ( coal is still extracted south of McClure Pass in the nearby North Fork Valley ).

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