Estes Park, Colorado
Summer seems to be slipping away quickly and into fall we go. As far as scenery goes, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Colorado is often renowned for its scenery, especially so when the leaves are changing and the landscape is draped with yellows, oranges, and reds. This leads us to think about mountain landscapes and places that allow us a different scenery than the city provides.
For this edition of “What’s Here?” Wednesday we chose to get out of town and feature the mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado whose main attraction is the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. This area is known for its brilliance in the summer and fall. While it is maybe not the most agreeable town weather wise in the deep months of winter this area provides a close mountain getaway for those in the city of Denver and areas surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park. It features scenery that will take your breath away, the opportunity to venture into the wilderness, and the amenities to both backpack into the wild or bunk in one of the local hotels.
The area began to take shape around the turn of the century. There are a few particularly significant and interesting early historic dates and events that helped shape Estes Park into a functioning town with its own micro-economy. Some of them include:
1843– Rufus Sage visits Estes Park. He spends a month hunting deer (deer hides were sold at Fort Lupton for $2 apiece and describes his visit in his book “Scenes in the Rocky Mountains”.
1850’s– Arapaho have spent summers camping around Mary’s Lake. They often traveled through the area, had established routes, and important sites throughout the area.
1859– The community is founded by Missouri native Joel Estes.
1867– Griff Evans and his family come to Estes Park. He begins building cabins to accommodate travelers, recognizing the potential for tourism.
1873– William Henry Jackson photographs Estes Park.
1874– Alex MacGregor incorporates a company to build a new toll road from Lyons, Colorado to Estes Park. The road eventually becomes U.S. Highway 36.
1877– Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin (the Fourth Earl of Dunraven) builds the towns first resort The Estes Park Hotel. The hotel is burnt to the ground in a fire in 1911.
1884– Enos Mills moves to Estes Park. This move proves to be very significant for Estes Park. Mills becomes a naturalist and conservationist who devotes his life after 1909 to preserving nearly a thousand square miles of Colorado as Rocky Mountain National Park. He succeeds and the park is dedicated in 1915.
1903– A new road is opened from Loveland through the Big Thompson River canyon to Estes Park (eventually becoming U.S. Highway 34).
1907– Three Loveland men establish the first auto stage line from Loveland to Estes Park with three five-passenger touring Stanley Steamers.
1909– The town’s most famous accommodations and perhaps one of its biggest attractions is opened. The Stanley Hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and has 140 rooms that catered to the turn of the century upper class. As early as the 1970s the Stanley Hotel has had reports of paranormal activity.
1912– Estes Park sees its first seasonal newspaper, the Estes Park Trail, which provides advertising for local hotels and businesses.
1915– President Woodrow Wilson signs the Rocky Mountain National Park Act.
As the seasons change and we find ourselves motivated to explore our local landscape and view the transition, we don’t have to go far. In less than a two hour travel time (without any traffic of course) one can find themselves immersed in a historic National Park. The town of Estes Park is a quaint accent to the majestic scenery and provides all the comforts of home. Thanks Colorado for all you have to offer. Cheers!
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