The name of Gunnison honors the life of John W. Gunnison who first explored the region. He first discovered the area as part of his government assigned quest to recommend the best route for a railroad across the Colorado Rockies. Gunnison country is today rich with mineral deposits and grazing lands. The city of Gunnison itself is becoming one of the important educational centers of the Centennial state, and the Gunnison River graciously pours it’s waters through the Gunnison tunnel, one of the greatest irrigation projects of modern times, bringing life and energy to this once barren wilderness.
Gunnison Country first began to boom in the 1870's along with the rise in mining in Colorado. The Ute Indians had been forced out of the area and many ranchers, traders and of course miners began to move in. Gunnison became the official seat of Gunnison County on May 22, 1877. In 1880 the railroad arrived, welcomed and embraced by not only miners but also by the ranchers and farmers of the Gunnison Valley. Gunnison saw one of the quickest boom and bust cycles ever as the mines and railroads came to town in the 1880's along with all the normal boom business. But, by 1883 a bust had come to town and half of the population had left. It seems the precious ore mining in the area was a little over-hyped because the ore veins that were discovered turned out to be shallow and low producing. Nevertheless, Gunnison was always the hub of enterprise for the area.
In 1909 Gunnison’s Colorado State Normal School was founded, and in 1915 the name was changed to Western State College.
Throughout the 20th century, Gunnison was a popular gateway to some of Colorado’s choice recreation areas. As early at the mid 1900s, the Taylor River and Tomichi and Celolla creeks were know as some of the best trout fishing spots in the Rockies. Crested Butte Ski Area opened in 1963, making Gunnison a destination for some of the best downhill skiers in the country. By the end of the century tourists could catch direct flights from most major cities.
The first half of the 21st century saw Gunnison continue as a major tourism destination, as well as a leader in adapting new technologies to its oldest industry: ranching. Many of the ranchers in the area formed a commune in an effort to pool their resources in the face of growing agricultural mega-corporations. The ranchers of Gunnison were able to take full advantage of advances in the fields of robotics and genetherapy to greatly increase their herd and crop yields.