A continuous settlement remained at the junction of the Turkey Creek and the Eagle River since the Rohm party set up their permanent camp at that location in early April 1879. This was the first permanent settlement on the Eagle River, and until 1900, it was the principal town of the region.
Until July 25, 1879, the settlement was either nameless, or known as Battle Mountain. On that day, the inhabitants officially christened the town Red Cliff, named after the quartzite cliffs, stained dark red by the hematite iron present in the rock surrounding the town.
The first hotel was a two-story building with cloth partitions called the Star. It remained the most luxurious lodging in Red Cliff, until the Quartzite hotel was built some years later. In 1882, the following businesses besides the Star and Quartzite hotels were operating: The Southern Hotel, the Pacific Hotel, the Mountain House, the Iowa House, three grocery stores, two drug stores, one clothing store, one meat market, two stationary and newspaper stores, one lumber and livery stable, a stage line, a dairy and two saloons.
Red Cliff was designated the county seat for Eagle county after the division from its larger, original size on February 11, 1883. The original county included the communities across the range such as Breckenridge.
During the winter of 1879-80, many people left town due to the severe cold weather and snow. A census taken in January 1880, showed a population of ninety-six people. However, in the spring, they began returning. Buildings were constructed and twenty thousand board feet of lumber was hauled into town from Leadville. The estimated population in mid-February 1880 was 250.
In 1880, the town already had a recognized post office. The Battle Mountain Smelter started operating in the fall and contributed toward citizen confidence in a growing town. However, a year later it was forced out of business by bankruptcy. It was during this year in March, that the first board was sawed in Melvin Edwards's sawmill and soon Burt and York's saw mill on Turkey Creek was turning out 8,000 board feet of lumber daily and A. W. Callan was thinking of building another sawmill higher on the creek.