Category Archives: Colorado History

No Quick Trips to the Market

Well before Longs Peak was named by explorers Native Americans were using the visible peaks we call Meeker and Longs as guides to their hunting grounds. As long ago as 3850 B.C. Ute and Arapaho tribes camped in the tundra to hunt large animals such as deer, elk, and bears. Before Spanish explorers brought horses to Northern Colorado, these ingenious people used hunting walls and hunting blinds to corral their prey.

 

Today you can find evidence of these in Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving over Trail Ridge Road there is a place where Hidden Valley Ski Area was established in 1934. You will not find a trail, sign, or parking area therefore you will need guidance from the experts at Alpine Visitors’ Center. Once you park in a pullout, you can hike above treeline. Gaze at the landscape until you discover two rugged lines of rocks which had been walls. These walls gradually narrowed to a point where hunters would wait in a round blind. Women and children might have scared the game into the entrance between the walls and ran them uphill toward the blind. Spears, bows and arrows, and hatchets were used to kill the animals.

 

The circle of rocks, or blind, you see here may have been altered since prehistoric times, but the “walls” are authentic. If you see or hear any signs of a storm while hiking, head downhill immediately.

Westminster Castle: the Big Red Castle

Have you ever wondered about the big red castle at 3455 West 83rd Avenue? It stands out because it was built at Crown Point, which is 5,552 feet above sea level. The sandstone tower is another 175 feet high, well above the Mile-High City, Denver, Colorado.

Even though it is much shorter than the many skyscrapers of Denver, Westminster Castle overlooks precious land. Looking west from the tower, you can imagine a prairie where Arapaho Indians once camped and hunted buffalo.

Stretching your vision towards the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there are remnants of the Cherokee-Overland Trail. From 1849 until the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, Native Americans, pioneers, and gold seekers traveled here between the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail seeking a better life.

Built in 1893, the three-story castle became a Presbyterian university. In 1915, the Board of Trustees decided to exclude women from the university. Within two years, they discovered they had no students at all. All of the young men had gone to fight in World War I.

Today you can tour the castle, now used by the Belleview Christian Schools. There will be a winter open house sponsored by the Westminster Historical Society on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Prepare to join the Historical Society for $15. per person or $25. per family. Meet at the Westminster History Center, 7200 Lowell Boulevard by 10:30am, then drive to the Castle to take a tour between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Wear your walking shoes and plan to climb the steep and narrow steps to the tower for a stunning view.

If you miss this opportunity, check the Westminster Historical Society Calendar for the June Open House or request a personal tour.

View from the Westminster Castle Tower

View from the Westminster Castle Tower

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Cache la Poudre River

20141203_102528 Cache la Poudre The Cherokee Trail was forged in 1849 by a group of Cherokee Indians who were discontent with their reservation lives in Oklahoma. They chose to travel to California to search for gold. They created a new path from Bent’s Fort in southeastern Colorado to the popular trail leading wagons to Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming. Seeking the easiest route, they followed the Cache La Poudre River north until it joined the Platte River. Although the Oregon Trail was well-used during the years from 1843 until the Union Pacific Railroad was completed in 1869, the Cherokee Trail also became an important link between the Santa Fe Trail and the northern route to California.
The small settlement of La Porte, Colorado offered the best ford across the Poudre River. Wagon ruts are still visible in La Porte, revealing a trail which headed almost straight north to Virginia Dale from the crossing.
As you view the photos, imagine the Cherokees holding their breath as they explored the safest place for oxen and horses to drag wagons across. If the trees were as bare as these, they would also be searching for shelter during the winter and delay the difficult trip west across Wyoming and into the Rocky Mountains.
Cache la Poudre is French for “hide the powder” and La Porte is French for “the door”. In the 1820s, French trappers were caught in a snowstorm and had to bury their gunpowder along the banks of this river.
In 1864, the river flooded in La Porte and destroyed the military post, Camp Collins. When the post was moved and rebuilt, it was named Fort Collins.
If you follow the Cache la Poudre to its source in Rocky Mountain National Park, you will understand why it was an important travel route since prehistoric times. Archeologists have found evidence of tipi rings, rock shelters, fire hearths and burial sites.
If you were able to camp along the river, would you plan to hike, raft, hunt, fish, set off on horseback, hear a concert at Mishawaka or just have a picnic?
20141203_102011 Cache la Poudre