Visitors to the two popular sites at Royal Gorge, also have an opportunity to be able to see a prison museum. The Museum of Colorado Prisons at Canon City, CO, provides a great opportunity to see the way prisons were once run. This museum is right next to an actual prison that is still in operation now.
The actual museum is located in what used to be the old women's prison. It was in operation from 1935 until 1968. The Territorial Prison that was originally built here received its first inmate in 1871. Just four years later it became the Colorado State Penitentiary.
Thirty-two cells in the prison have been transformed into exhibits. Guests to the prison museum can see many artifacts from the time when prisoners were treated much differently. They will be able to see the hangman's noose that was used to execute the last prisoner to be hung in the State. Paraphernalia that was used to provide discipline for the prisoners through the years can also be seen.
Out front of the museum is a gas chamber that sits on the lawn. Inside, guests can see many historical photographs that depict what life in this prison system was like. There is also an exhibit from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Visitors go through the prison on self-guided tours. They are given MP3 and CD audio tours that provide information and explanations about each exhibit. Some of the cells also contain life-size models that make it even more realistic.
Guests also have the opportunity to stand behind a set of bars in prison stripes and get a picture taken. Another photo opportunity allows visitors to stand behind a prisoner cutout with your face showing!
The prison has been the site where a number of famous prisoners had been kept. This would include Alferd Packer - a cannibal; Sheriff Sam is depicted by a robot - who ended up in prison himself (there were 77 prisoners executed during his "reign"), and Anton Wood - who was the youngest person (11 years old) in Colorado to be convicted of murder.
It is strongly recommended that visitors be over the age of 12. The museum is accessible. Some exhibits are changed on a quarterly basis. A Gift Shop is also available that sells arts and crafts that have been made by some of the inmates, revealing some of their talent.
The Museum of Colorado Prisons in Canon City, CO, is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day from the hours of 8:30 AM until 6 PM every day. For the rest of the year it is open from 10 AM until 5 PM each day. Tours are available but they must be made by appointment.
Visitors to the area will also want to see the nearby Royal Gorge, where there is the world's highest suspension bridge. The bridge crosses over a chasm that is more than 1,000 feet down. A train ride is also available to take guests through the gorge, and it also offers dinners and other meals - along with specials like Murder Mystery and Dinner rides.