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Denver Area
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Colorado Springs Area
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Gunnison River
Uncompahgre River
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Colorado River
Grand Jct.- Green Riv.
Green Riv.- Provo
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USGS History



Colorado Springs Area

(U.S.G.S. Bulletin 707, 1922)


As most travelers on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad stop here to sample the mineral waters of Manitou and to explore the peaks and canyons of the near-by mountains, the more interesting side trips that may be made in a single day will be described.


The place that is first visited by most travelers stopping at Colorado Springs is Manitou, 6 miles to the west, at the foot of Pikes Peak. In order to reach Manitou from Colorado Springs the traveler must pass through the historic town of Colorado City, which sprang into existence as a. result of the rush of gold seekers to the Pikes Peak region in 1859. A cluster of log cabins was built at the base of the peak, but no gold was found. In 1862 Colorado City again came into prominence, when the second legislative assembly of the Territory convened there, but after a four-day session it adjourned to Denver, the real capital of the State. It is said that the building in which the meeting was held is still standing but in a much dilapidated condition. In 1910 Colorado City had a population of 4,333; since then it has been consolidated with Colorado Springs. In the palmy days of the, Cripple Creek camp it had four cyanide plants 11 in operation treating the ores, but with the decline of that camp the mills have been allowed to fall into decay. At the present time only one of them is in operation.

Manitou Area

The town of Manitou has a permanent population (1920) of 1,357, but during the summer it has many times that number. It was originally called Villa La Font, but this name was later changed to Manitou, which is the Indian name for the Great Spirit. It is said that the Indians were familiar with the springs before the advent of the white man, and that they believed that the bubbling was caused by the breath of the Great Spirit. In Manitou there are 16 springs whose waters differ widely in the composition and quantity of the mineral matter they contain. Some of the waters are strongly impregnated with soda, others with iron and magnesia, and some contain, it is said, lithia, lime, sulphur, potash, and other minerals The principal springs are known as the Soda, Ute Iron, Ute Chief, Navajo, Geyser, Mansions, Soda-Iron, Twin Shoshone, Minnehaha, Magnetic, and Magnesia.

Garden of the Gods

The second most attractive natural feature of the region is the Garden of the Gods, which can easily be reached from Manitou or from the trolley line that connects Manitou and Colorado Springs. This interesting bit of wonderland is now a part of the Colorado Springs park system, to which it was transferred in 1909 by the heirs of the late Charles Elliott Perkins with the stipulation that it should be forever kept open and free to the world.

There are two entrances to the Garden of the Gods, but the traveler should by all means approach it from the lower entrance, the one nearest Colorado Springs, for he will there get his first view of it through the celebrated "Gateway," which is in itself one of its most striking features. Plate XIX shows the great upstanding ledge of red sandstone in which the "Gateway" has been cut by a small stream. The view here shown is not that which the traveler will get from the main road but is one he could get by climbing and walking a little distance to the north before reaching the deep cut. The white rock in the foreground is a thick bed of gypsum, which contrasts strongly with the deepred sandstone beyond.

After passing through the "Gateway " the traveler will find himPelf in a wonderful array of tall spires of red and white-sandstone and of many fantastic forms, which have been produced by the slow weathering of the massive rock. These features are shown in Plates XX and XXI. The rocks of the Garden of the Gods are of the same general character as the upturned red sandstones between Denver and Colorado Springs, but the forms are larger and more picturesque here than they are at any other place on the mountain front. These great natural monuments look as if they had been pushed up from below the surface by some giant force, but they are really mere remnants of great masses of red and mottled rock that were long ago tilted up on end and then were partly removed by the dissolving action of the atmosphere. This is a. slow process, but it is always in operation, and each day a few grains of sand are loosened and carried away. Under this constant attack new and picturesque forms are being produced and the old pinnacles and towers are being -worn away. All these interesting monuments of the activity of weathering processes will at some time be worn down to the level of the plain, but that time will be so far in the future that the loss of the monuments need not give much concern to the present generation.

The great ledges that give to the Garden of the Gods its picturesqueness extend to the north and are again strikingly exposed in Glen Eyrie, which for a long time was the chosen home of Gen. Palmer.


Manitou is the place from which the start is made on the Cogwheel Road for the ascent of Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak, the highest mountain in this part of the system (14,109 feet), was named for its discoverer, Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike, who was commissioned by President Jefferson to explore certain parts of the western country acquired from France by the treaty of Paris, signed April 30, 1803, and generally known as the Louisiana Purchase. Pike had already made a trip to the source of the Mississippi when he was directed to explore what was then known as the " Southwest." He and his party left Missouri in July, 1806, and went across the country to the Arkansas and up that valley to the site of Pueblo. At the mouth of Purgatory Creek he caught sight of Pikes Peak, far to the north. Pike, in his journal, calls it the "Grand Peak." He was fired with the ambition to climb it, so he started off from his camp at the site of Pueblo, on Arkansas River, supposing that he could easily reach its summit and return in the course of a few days. He was not accustomed to the clear air of the mountains and did not realize that the peak was 45 miles distant in an air line and about 9,500 feet above him. The party traveled directly toward the peak, and finally, on November 27, 1806, after great hardships, they reached the summit of the plateau, at an altitude of probably 9,000 feet, far south of the peak. The mountain was covered with snow, and they saw that they were but little more than halfway to the top. As they were not prepared for such cold weather, they suffered severely and concluded that it was then impossible to reach the summit. They returned as they came and then pursued their way up the river toward the site of Canon City.

The first person to climb to the summit of Pikes Peak was Dr. Edwin James, botanist, geologist, and surgeon of Maj. Long's expedition, in 1820. On account of this ascent Maj. Long named the mountain James Peak, and it was called by this name for a number of years. Eventually, however, the name of its discoverer, Pike, was given to the mountain, and it is now firmly fixed as the most appropriate one that could have been chosen.

Pikes Peak stands at an altitude of 14,109 feet, or more than 1 1/2 miles (7,920 feet) above Colorado Springs. Its summit may be reached by the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, better known as the Cogwheel Road, or by automobile over the road recently completed from Cascade to the top. The first part of the Cogwheel route through Engelmann Canyon, which is nearly filled with large granite boulders, is very picturesque. The small stream tumbles over the, great blocks of rock in continuous cascades, and overhead and around is the deep green of the native forest. Near the upper end of the canyon is the intake of the main that supplies Colorado Springs and Manitou with pure, cold mountain water. The water supply of these towns is derived not only from this particular valley but is gathered by a system of tunnels and canals from a number of rocky basins whose natural outlet is to the west.

After passing through the rough part of Engelmann Canyon the road emerges onto a. comparatively level terrace of the mountain side at an elevation of about 9,000 feet. On this terrace the ancient glaciers that came down from the high peak above dumped great quantities of loose fragments of rock in ridges that are called moraines. The ice has disappeared, but the moraines still testify to the existence and the extent of the ice. The most conspicuous moraine to be seen from the Cogwheel Road is that which encircles and holds in place Lake Moraine, on the left. The moraine had formerly been breached by a stream, but it has been artificially restored to its original condition, and it now holds a lake of considerable size.

The surface of the mountain above timber line consists of granite, which is bare except where it is covered by snow. After circling around a long spur that projects to the south the train arrives at the summit. On the east are Colorado Springs and Manitou, which look like small villages or gardens spread at the foot of the mountain, and still farther east are the plains, which stretch like a carpet as far as the eye can see. On the west and southwest the mountains roll like, the billows of the sea, far into the hazy distance. The Sangre de Cristo and the great Sawatch ranges tower like giant rollers high above the others, as if the sea had been consolidated at the very moment of its greatest agitation. On the north is the Rampart or Front Range, but in this direction, instead of rugged mountains, one sees only a gently undulating plateau, which from this great height looks much like the plains on the east except that it is dark with a growth of evergreen trees.

To the traveler who is unfamiliar with high altitudes one of the most striking features here is the effect of weathering on the rocks. The summit and the slope on the southwest side for some distance down are covered with blocks of granite that have been broken from the massive rock that forms the top of the mountain. The rocks on the summits of all high peaks are broken and thrown down in the same way, evidently through the rigors of the climate in such high and exposed places. The warm rays of the sun during the day expand the rocks and melt some of the snow, and the water so formed sinks down in cracks and crevices and during the ensuing night freezes. The expansion and contraction of the rocks due to changes in temperature and the freezing of water in joints and fissures soon break to pieces even the most massive granite, as shown on the summit of the peak.

The first railroad that was projected up Pikes Peak was an ordinary steam road. It was planned to follow a circuitous route with a maximum gradient of 250 feet to the mile and to reach the summit in a distance of 30 miles. Construction was started in 1884, and about 8 miles was graded when. the scheme failed through lack of financial support. Surveys for the present road were begun in 1888, and the golden spike was driven on October 20, 1890. The maximum gradient of this road is 1,320 feet to the mile, and the length is 9 miles.

The automobile road reaches the same point on the summit that is reached by the Cogwheel Road. The length of the road is 18 miles; its average grade is 370 feet to the mile, and its maximum grade is 554 feet. The view from the automobile road is even more impressive than that from the Cogwheel Road, for, owing to the numerous bends, the traveler can see the ever-widening landscape on all sides. The route passes through Manitou and up the narrow defile of Ute Pass, at first over the edges of the eastward-dipping quartzite and then over the underlying granite. The road as well as the contact between the quartzite above and the granite below is well shown in Plate XXIV, B. At the village of Cascade the new road turns and climbs the west wall of the canyon, and as it rounds the point directly above Cascade the traveler can look down the pass to Manitou, far in the distance. The road follows Cascade Creek for some distance in a canyon hemmed in by granite walls, but these grow less and less steep as the automobile moves on until finally the road passes by a gentle grade, from the head of the valley to the divide between Cascade and Catamount creeks. At this height, about 9,250 feet, the traveler gets a wide, view, particularly to the north, and he may note that the sky line, as shown in Plate XV, A, is as level as that of the plain about Colorado Springs, except that here and there low knobs rise island-like above the level surface, and far away in the hazy distance he can just make out the blue outline of Tarryall and Mosquito ranges. Could the traveler, however, cross the apparently level plain at which he is looking he would find that it is smooth only in appearance from a distance, for it is really cut up into numerous ravines much like the one followed by the automobile road. Another feature which the traveler will probably notice on the surface of this plain is the deep and perfect disintegration of the granite rock which composes all this country. No ledges of rock can be seen, and the soil is made up largely of small fragments of granite broken up by the action of the weather.

This plateau can be traced northward at least as far as Denver. It is the result of long exposure to the action of the weather and the cutting of the streams when the entire region was at a much lower level than it is to-day-so low, in fact, that the streams could cut no lower and it remained in this position so long that most of the hills and other inequalities of the surface were worn away and the region was reduced to a plain as truly as the country about Denver and Colorado Springs is a plain today. That was long, long ago, as man measures time, even before man was there to see any of the operations that produced the change.

Then came a slow but steady uplift of the mountain region and probably also of the plain, until the land reached its present height above sea level. Such an uplift accelerated the streams, and they soon cut deep canyons-such as Ute Pass and the canyon of Cascade Creck-in the surface of the plateau, until today it is level only as one looks across broad tracts of its old surface and at a distance so great that the details fade and the plain looks as it once did before the uplift came. At that time, owing to the fact that the rocks of Pikes Peak are more resistant than those of other parts of the region, the mountain stood nearly 5,000 feet above the surface of the plain, just as to-day it stands nearly 5,000 feet above the surface of the plateau.

From the plateau the slopes of the mountain above appear to be unscalable by a road, and it is only by constant turning and looping back upon itself that the road finally reaches what appears from below to be the summit but what is really a long spur of the mountain that branches off to the northwest. The northern slope of this spur, up which the traveler came, is very steep, but the opposite slope is so gentle that it scarcely can be considered mountainous. The difference in the appearance of the two slopes is well shown, at a place called " the Bottomless Pit." Here the traveler may stand in his automobile and gaze down on the north into a jagged pit about 1,700 feet deep, whereas on the other side the slope is very gentle. As the rocks are the same on both sides of the ridge there must be some cause other than rock texture for this great difference in appearance. Geologists recognize that the steep, jagged slopes on the north side, are the, result of the action of moving ice, but the traveler may inquire: Where is the ice? The climate here is now so mild that practically all the snow which falls in the winter is melted away during the succeeding summer, but ages ago the, climate of all the United States was much more severe than it is today, and large glaciers were formed on almost every mountain peak. The most favorable place for the snow to accumulate was on the north and east sides, for it was not blown away by gales coming from the west, and it was protected from the heat of the sun more than it would have been on the other sides. Thus the glaciers were, restricted to the north and east sides, or at least they were more numerous and larger there than they were on the other sides.

In that far-off time fairly large glaciers lay on the side of Pikes Peak, and they gouged out great amphitheaters or cirques, as they are generally called, in the mountain side. In this manner the original more gentle slope was converted to nearly vertical walls. The rocky material that was removed from these cirques was carried down by the glacier and deposited at its extremity as a. ridge or moraine or was washed down Fountain Creek. If the traveler wishes to see how steep are the cliffs produced by a glacier he has only to walk to the end of the Cogwheel Road and look down a thousand feet or so into the rocky basin that the ice has cut.


The trip from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek over the "Short Line" affords the traveler an opportunity to see some fine and extremely diverse mountain scenery and to visit one of the active goldmining districts of Colorado.

The route extends directly west from Colorado Springs, past some of the big mills that were built to reduce the Cripple Creek ores, and then passes up along the right side of Bear Creek canyon. Here the sedimentary rocks are upturned so steeply that they stand on edge and make great hogbacks across the country. The train passes the limy outcrop of the Niobrara and then goes through a projecting point of the Dakota sandstone. Just beyond this ledge the railroad crosses Bear Creek canyon and swings back on the other side. At the point where it crosses the canyon the Dakota sandstone abuts "end on" against the granite of the mountain. Such a contact is not normal, and it means that the two diverse kinds of rocks were brought into contact by a great break, or, as the geologists call it, a fault, in the rocky crust of the earth, the granite having been thrust up out of place until it rested against the broken edges of the beds of sandstone. This fault is the one that separates the granite from the red sandstone a few rods below the station of the Cogwheel Road in Manitou, and its course is marked by Ute Pass, which it produced and through which the Midland Terminal Railway (formerly the Colorado Midland) finds a way to Woodland Park. South of Bear Creek the fault is marked by the base of the mountain, and to it is due the abrupt change from steep mountain slope above to flatlying plain below.

The "Short Line" climbs t he mountain front, gradually attaining higher and higher altitudes, until it rounds Point Sublime, from which the traveler can look down nearly a thousand feet into North Cheyenne Canyon. The view from this point is shown in Plate XXV, A. Beyond this point the railway winds in a serpentine course around spurs and ravines as it adjusts its course to the contour of the slopes. But here and there a mountain spur is so large or so rugged that the cost of grading the roadbed around it would be very great, so the train plunges through the spur by a tunnel that reaches its very core, and in some places it crosses on high trestles rushing torrents that cascade down the steep granite walls, as shown in Plate XXVI. In this manner the train circles around the slopes of North Cheyenne Canyon far above the rugged scenic part and then tunnels through the dividing ridge and circles around the slopes of South Cheyenne Canyon, all the time climbing so as to cross the divide at its head.

In this long climb the traveler may obtain many beautiful views of rugged mountain slopes covered with a stately forest of evergreen trees, of foamy cascades that plunge down gulches and ravines, of great bare rock slopes, such as the one shown in Plate XXV, B, and of far-off Colorado Springs, spread out on the level prairie like a miniature garden.

The crest is passed at the station of Summit (altitude 9,913 feet), and the train then begins the descent of the west side. This side is much less steep than the one up which the train has laboriously climbed, and along it the roadbed winds about from one valley to another as it crosses the headwaters of a number of mountain streams. Many of the valleys of these streams contain ranches, but some are mere gorges in the rugged granite, such as is shown in Plate XXVII, B.

The train finally arrives at Goldfield Junction, in the midst of some of the largest gold mines of the Goldfield district (Pl. XXVIII, A [and Pl. XXVIII, B]). If the traveler wishes to see the big mines and mills to the best advantage he should here transfer to the " High Line " trolley, which carries him around mountain tops, among mines, mills, and dump heaps of waste rock, and finally lands him in the once famous town of Cripple Creek, the center of one of the best-known mining districts in Colorado. Returning he can see most of the low-lying part of the Cripple Creek district from the steam cars, especially the great mines at Victor and Goldfield. The district was prospected at several periods, but it was not until the autumn of 1890 that Robert Womack discovered gold in place at what is now the Gold King mine, or in the flank of Poverty Gulch, just southeast of the town of Cripple Creek. Since then the district has produced more than $300,000,000 in gold, and its present yield is about $350,000 a month. A more detailed account of the discovery, development, and present condition of the district is given below by F. L. Ransome.


One of the most romantic as well as most beautiful places in the region about Colorado Springs is South Cheyenne Canyon, immortalized by Helen Hunt Jackson and for some years the resting place of her body.

This beautiful canyon lies 3 miles southwest of Colorado, Springs and can easily be reached by trolley or private conveyance. The canyon (see Pl. XXIX) is attractive not only on account of the beauty of its magnificent granite walls-a miniature Yosemite-but also because the cut in the massive granite is the enduring record of events that took place long before the white man saw this country and in all probability before man existed on the globe. All the mountains, hills, valleys, and plains constitute, records of similar events, but here the record is so clear and distinct that anyone may decipher it after he has had a slight training in the, alphabet Nature uses.

South Cheyenne Canyon and the form of the mountains in this part of the State indicate to the geologist, as already explained, that at a time long, long ago this part of the earth's crust was much nearer sea level than it is now. The mountains of Colorado were not then the magnificent spectacles they are to-day but were more like the Appalachians. Pikes Peak of that time was probably not more than 5,000 or 6,000 feet above sea level, and the plains reached back many miles into what is now the heart of the mountains, with isolated low ranges here and there projecting above their even surf ace. Then came a great uplift which finally raised the mountains to their present positions. On this uplifted mass of rock the streams, on account of their increased slope, were very active and at once began to cut deep trenches; these in time were widened where the rocks were soft, and finally all the higher land on the plains was cut away, but in the hard rocks of the mountains the streams have succeeded in cutting back only a short distance and have formed canyons like that of South Cheyenne. At some places in South Cheyenne, Canyon this backward cutting has proceeded rapidly because the granite is shattered, but at the Seven Falls the joints, and fissures in the rock extend to one side, as shown in Plate XXX, whereas the stream tumbles over a wall of the most massive rock imaginable, and the canyon ends so abruptly that it seems almost as if it had been the work of man. If the rock were not of this character the stream would probably have cut considerably farther back, and in that event the Seven Falls would probably have been replaced by a series of cascades. In time this cutting will doubtless be accomplished, for the stream is always at work-it knows no cessation from its labors-and, although the work of cutting the granite is extremely slow when compared with human standards, it is continuous, and if conditions remain the same as they are to-day the canyon will be cut far back into the mountain, until, in even more remote. time, the mountains themselves may be worn down and a plain may be found where now we have our grandest scenery. The regularity and smoothness of the walls of South Cheyenne Canyon are due largely to the massiveness, of the granite in which the canyon is carved.

The traveler should climb to the top of the falls, where he can obtain a much better idea of the magnitude of the gorge, and then he will doubtless be impelled to climb still higher, to Inspiration Point., which is said to be the spot most beloved by Helen Hunt Jackson., the place where she wrote many of her most noted works of fiction. One can hardly imagine a more inspiring sight than that of Colorado Springs and the broad stretch of plain seen from this point; and here, amid the grandeur of the mountains, the romantic imagination of so ardent a lover of nature would readily be quickened into new life. She pays this tribute to Inspiration Point:

Beautiful cradle of peace! There are some spots on earth which seem to have a strong personality about them-a charm and a spell far beyond anything which mere material nature, however lovely, can exert; a charm which charms like the beauty of a human face; and a spell which lasts like the bond of a human relation. In such spots we can live alone without being lonely. We go away from them with the same sort of sorrow with which we part from friends, and we recall their looks with the yearning tenderness with which we look on the photographs of beloved absent faces.

Although Helen Hunt Jackson died in California, her last request was that her body be brought back and laid to rest in this spot on Cheyenne Mountain that she so dearly loved and that the place be marked only by the boulders which nature had provided. This was done, and many thousand travelers still visit the grave annually and pay tribute to the gifted author, though her body now lies in Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs.

If the traveler returns from the canyon late in the afternoon he may see some of the beauty of the plains as it appeared to her poetic imagination:

Between the pines and the firs are wonderful vistas of the radiant plain. Each glimpse is a picture in itself-now an open space of clear sunny distance; now a belt of cottonwood trees making a dark-green oasis in the yellow distance; now the majestic bluffs, looking still more castle-like, framed in the dark foreground lines of pine boughs. We are in shadow. The sun has set for us; but it is yet early afternoon on the plain and it is brilliant with sun. * * * The brilliance slowly fades, and the lower sunset light casts soft shadows on every mound and hill and hollow. The whole plain seems dimpling with shadows; each Instant they deepen and move eastward; first revealing and then slowly hiding each rise and fall in the vast surface. Away in the east, sharply against the sky, lines of rocky bluffs gleam white as city walls; close at the base of the mountain the foothills seem multiplied and transfigured Into countless velvet mounds. The horizon line seems to curve more and more, as if somehow the twilight were folding the world up for the night, and we were on some outside shore watching it.


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