The main street through Oak Creek is lined with mostly older, clapboard buildings that house a drugstore, a coffee shop, a gas station, a liquor store and a variety of restaurants. Oak Creek residents pride themselves for their restaurants, which entice hungry Steamboat Springs' residents to make the drive south. Oak Creek residents are enjoying a revitalization of its downtown central business district.
More and more young families and first-time homeowners who can't afford Steamboat or who are looking for a smaller town are buying property in Oak Creek. And even though some people commute half an hour to Steamboat to work, REALTORS say that the commute can sometimes be a selling point, as it gives people a chance to catch their breath and distance themselves from the rush of the day.
Gail Schisler has lived in Oak Creek for almost 18 years and says that just because the town is small, it doesn't mean there isn't anything to do.
"There are lots of activities going on. You can keep yourself busy with volunteering or with after-school activities with the kids. And there are lots of good restaurants," Schisler said. "It's a very tight knit community. You always say 'hi' to everybody."
Less than 4 miles south of Oak Creek is Phippsburg, the smallest of these three towns and the only one that is unincorporated so is under the authority of Routt County.
Housing here is less expensive than it is in Oak Creek. The town has only about 50 homes total with some dating back to the early 1900s.
There are no stores or restaurants here, so residents travel to Oak Creek or even to Steamboat Springs to pick up their necessities. Many residents work for the railroad and the coal company, and families with children as well as retirees are also common.
The town of Yampa is six miles south of Phippsburg and is about half the size of Oak Creek. It has strong ties to ranching and agriculture. A diner and a ranch store are both located in town.
Because Yampa is also the gateway to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, Colorado's second largest wilderness area, town is busier in the summer and quieter in the winter. The landscape is flat and open, with sprawling ranches always in view.
Although skiing isn't right out the backdoor, Yampa is close to both Vail and Steamboat ski resorts, making it a happy medium for skiers who like variety and don't care about a longer drive to get to the resorts.
The area surrounding Oak Creek, Phippsburg and Yampa makes up rural South Routt County. Here, ranching is still the predominant way of life.
The landscape consists of expanses of bottomland and hay meadows, with clear views of the Flat Tops and a scattered ranch house here and there.
South of Steamboat sit the towns of Oak Creek, Phippsburg, and Yampa, all of which vary in landscape, amenities and character, but have one similarity–they are all small.
For someone looking for a home in a small community that is still reasonably close to both Steamboat Springs and Interstate 70, these three towns offer good options.
Oak Creek, with a population of around 880, is the first town that drivers hit as they wind south along Routt County Road 131 from Steamboat. It has a range of home styles, sizes, and eras.
Oak Creek seems tucked into the rocky, shrubby landscape, but opens up enough to provide space for a town park and some breathing room for homes.
The Soroco School District serves the towns in South Routt. The middle and high schools for Soroco are in Oak Creek while the elementary school is in Yampa.