Denver to Pueblo
Colorado Springs Area
Royal Gorge Route
Marshall Pass Area
Tennessee Pass Area
Grand Jct.- Green Riv.
Green Riv.- Provo
Provo- Salt Lake
(U.S.G.S. Bulletin 707, 1922)
The traveler who, is unfamiliar with the West will find much to interest him in and about
Denver. The city has sprung up in a short time; it is, indeed, but little more than 50
years old. Its population, according to the census of 1920, was 256,491. The traveler who
may have thought of Denver as a city in the center of a great mountainous empire may be
disappointed in finding, when he arrives there, that it is a city on the plains, 15 or 16
miles east of the foothills and 50 to 60 miles east of the Continental Divide, or the main
crest of the Rocky Mountains. (See Route map, sheet
Although it is on the plains, Denver, in common with many towns in and near the mountains,
owes its first settlement to the, discovery of gold, which was found in the sand of Cherry
Creek by a band of prospectors who were bound to the mountain region. The sand was not
commercially productive, but the camp established for the purpose of working it has grown
and is to-day a fine city with broad streets, great manufacturing plants, large stores,
numerous business blocks, commodious hotels and residences, and beautiful boulevards and
The exploration that led to the founding of the city of Denver, like those that led to the
founding of many other cities, is shrouded more or less in mystery. Gold was certainly the
lure that brought the explorers here, but when and where gold was first discovered in what
is now Colorado are not certainly known. There are many legends that the, precious metal
was found in the, foothills and the mountains of Colorado prior to 1850, but most of these
legends are vague and unreliable. What appears to be the first authentic account of an
exploration in this vicinity is a story that a party of Cherokee Indians, in the spring of
1849, went to the Pacific coast by way of the old trail up the Arkansas Valley across the
Squirrel Creek divide (just east of Palmer Lake), and down Cherry Creek to the South
Platte at the site of the present city of Denver. The story goes that the Indians found
some gold in the Rocky Mountains but not enough to deter them from continuing their trip
to California. When they reached the coast they did not find gold as abundantly as they
had expected, so they returned to Georgia. fully convinced that there were opportunities
in the Rocky Mountains just as promising as they bad seen in California.
In 1858 the Cherokees again organized a gold-seeking expedition, which was joined by many
white men. This party, which was known as the Green Russell party, went to Cherry Creek,
where the Indians bad found some gold on their previous visit. They prospected along
Cherry Creek and South Platte River, and many people flocked to their camp. Little gold
was found, but the camp persisted, and several settlements sprang up on or near the site
later occupied by the city of Denver. The first town established in this vicinity was on
South Platte River 6 miles above the mouth of Cherry Creek. It was called Montana and
consisted of about twenty log cabins, but it did not survive a year. The first town on the
actual site of Denver was called St. Charles. It was organized September 24, 1858, and,
like most towns of this period, it existed at first only on paper; it was not until
October that the first structure was erected. This structure consisted of a few logs piled
up and surmounted with a wagon cover, and this was probably the first building on the site
of Denver. About the middle of October Georgians established a town on the west side of
Cherry Creek which they called Auraria, after a small mining town in Georgia.
The town of St. Charles made no progress until the 17th of November, when Gen. William
Larimer and Richard E. Whitsett arrived there and rechristened it Denver City, in honor of
Gen. J. W. Denver, the governor of the Territory of Kansas, which then included that part
of the present State of Colorado which lies east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The
first house in Denver is Said to have been erected by Gen. Larimer on the banks of Cherry
Creek, between what are now Blake and Wazee streets. The towns of Montana and Auraria soon
disappeared or were swallowed up by the more rapidly growing "City of Denver,"
as it was known in the early days.
Denver, though not a mining city, has long been the financial and distributing center of
an immense mining region, including the Rocky Mountains from northern Wyoming to southern
New Mexico. It has become also a great railroad center, partly because it is a center of
distribution and partly because. most tourists making a trip to the Far West desire to
pass through or stop in this flourishing city. The city has the wonderful health-giving
climate of the mountain region, and many who have found the humid, heavy atmosphere of the
East depressing have each year sought and been benefited by the dry, exhilarating, and
rarefied air of Colorado.
Denver is now the metropolis of the Rocky Mountain region. It is noted for its broad,
clean streets, its handsome residences, and the beauty and number of its public parks.
Grass and trees are not natural to Denver, so the people there take the greatest interest
in them and are willing to spend time and money freely for a beautiful lawn and a growth
of trees. Farther east, where such things are abundant, they are not prized so highly and
are generally neglected, so that they do not grow in the perfection that they attain in
the semiarid region, where irrigation is possible.
One of the best known of Denver's parks is the Capitol Grounds and Civic Center, shown in
part in Plate II. The Civic Center has recently been acquired by the city and made into a
beautiful park. The largest of Denver's playgrounds is City Park, which contains 320 acres
and has been beautified by trees, flowers, lakes, and fountains until it is the, equal of
almost any other artificial park in the country. In it is a zoological garden and a museum
of natural history. Washington Park also is becoming one of the beauty spots of the city.
Cheesman Park is noted for the magnificent view of the mountains which may be had from its
pavilion. Here on a clear day the traveler may obtain a sweeping view of the great Front
Range from Longs Peak, 60 miles away on the north, to Pikes Peak, 80 miles to the
southwest. To assist the traveler to recognize the more prominent peaks a brass plate,
upon which are engraved the names of the peaks and the lines of sight pointing toward
them, has there been set on a pedestal. This diagram, together with a fairly good map of
the State, enables one to place accurately all the more striking mountain features in the
Another excellent vantage point from which to view the mountains is the dome of the
Capitol. This fine building, which is constructed of native granite and marble, stands on
a. commanding terrace facing the west. The dome is 276 feet high, and from its balcony on
a clear day a vast extent of the mountain front may be seen.
Fronting the Capitol is the Public Library and the United States Mint, both constructed of
Colorado granite and both massive buildings, which serve as a fitting setting for the
State Capitol. The library is interesting as a piece of Grecian architecture and the mint
as the place of manufacture, and the storage of vast sums of Government coin. The new
Federal post office, a, beautiful building, which occupies an entire city block, is built
of Colorado marble. This stone is just becoming well known and is being used in many parts
of the country, notably in the new Lincoln Memorial in Washington, A C. It is taken from
quarries about 40 miles south of Glenwood Springs. Another public building that attracts
attention is the great auditorium, built to accommodate the Democratic national convention
of 1908. It seats 12,000 persons and contains one of the finest theaters in the United
States, seating 3,500 persons.
Denver is an active industrial city, and its manufacturing plants make many and various
articles ranging from railroad cars to radium salts. Perhaps the most interesting plant to
the average traveler is the smelter for the reduction of the, ores of the precious metals.
A description of a smelter is given on pages 252254. There are also brick and clay works,
railroad shops, and other works.
Denver is noted for the excellence of its public schools and for the beauty and
serviceableness of its school buildings. It is a center of higher education also, for the
State University is at Boulder, less than 20 miles northwest of the city; the State,
School of Mines is at Golden, 16 miles west of it; and Denver University is in the city.
The residential part of the city is very attractive. The houses are substantial and are
surrounded by velvety lawns diversified and beautified by flowers and shrubs. No frame
buildings can be erected within the city limits.
Although the extremes of temperature at Denver are rather great, the summer temperatures
reaching 950 degrees F. or more and winter temperatures touching the zero point, the
climate, is not hard to bear, for the air is so dry that the extremes of either summer or
winter are not felt as they are in a more humid climate. According to seven years' records
of the Weather Bureau the mean annual precipitation is 13.7 inches and the mean annual
temperature is 50 degrees. The dryness of the air may be better appreciated by comparing
it with that of the Atlantic coast, where the mean annual precipitation is 45 to 50
ONE-DAY TRIPS FROM DENVER.
As most of the westbound travelers who pass through Denver stop over a few hours or a few
days, it is desirable to call their attention to many side trips that may be made in one
day by trolley, railroad train, or automobile.
Most people are attracted by the mountains, and the excursions that are generally of the
greatest interest are those made into their narrow canyons or over their snowy summits.
Not only are the mountain trips enjoyable on account of the scenery, but they enable the
traveler to have the pleasure of tramping over snow banks under the hot rays of a
midsummer sun, to see something of the mines of gold and silver and other metals that
have, made, this region famous, and to behold the magnificent exposures of rock along the
canyon walls and in the highest peaks and thus to learn some of nature's hidden mysteries
regarding the earth upon which he lives.
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE AT CORONA IN ROLLINS PASS.
Corona is reached by the Denver & Salt Lake, Railroad, or " Moffat road," as
it is generally called. It is the objective point of most travelers who wish to enjoy the
pleasure of snowballing on a hot summer day and of experiencing the sensation of standing
on the backbone of the continent. On leaving Denver for this trip. the traveler sees first
the fine irrigated farms of Clear Creek valley and then the upturned beds of sandstone and
shale which carry the coal of the Denver Basin. These rocks, which are called by
geologists the Laramie formation, are of Cretaceous age, and their position in the
geologic column is shown on page ii. No coal beds can be seen from this railroad, but a
few miles to the north there are extensive mines.
At the loop which the railroad makes before it climbs the eastern front of the
mountains there is exposed a dark shale (Benton shale or lower part of the Colorado
group), which lies near the base of the Upper Cretaceous series. At Plainview the road
cuts through a hogback formed of the upturned edge of the underlying Dakota sandstone and
shows some of the variegated sandstone and shale of the Morrison formation, which lies
directly below the Dakota sandstone, or toward the mountains. The succession of rocks in
the hogback and the mountain f ront is shown [below].
Beyond the valley formed in the soft rocks of the Morrison formation the red sandstone
(Fountain formation) lies upturned against the mountain front in great triangular slabs
like the teeth of a gigantic saw. (See Pl. III, B.) The
railroad in climbing the mountain front pierces the projecting points of this hard layer
by many short tunnels, and the traveler has ample opportunity to study its characteristics
as the train turns and twists around the ravines or dives headlong through the rocky
tunnels. (See Pl.
IV, A). This red sandstone is tilted up against the gneiss (pronounced nice) or
granitelike rock that forms the bulk of the Front Range.
When these beds of sandstone were formed they consisted of horizontal layers of sand,
which were laid down along the shore of a body of water, just as sand accumulates to-day
along the shore of the ocean or of a large lake. The rocks upon which the sand rested were
granite and gneiss, from which some of it was derived and the sand lapped onto the shore
irregularly, some beds extending much farther inland than others, the distance inland
reached by them at one place or another depending on the form of the surface and the
height of the water. Finally, after the entire region had been covered by layers that
eventually became sandstone, shale, and limestone, the region on the west was lifted up
hundreds or perhaps thousands of feet, and the red sand, which had hardened into
sandstone, was bent upward in a great arch that may have extended entirely over the
present Front Range. The streams probably cut away the upper part of this arch almost as
fast as the land was raised, so that the mountains may never have been much higher than
they are today. The work of the streams has been continued until all of the upper part, of
the sandstone arch has been removed, as shown [below], and only the sharp upturn on the
flanks which can be seen so well from the "Moffat road," has been preserved.
The train climbs steadily, affording here and there beautiful views far out, over the
plains to the east, and finally, when nearly above, Eldorado Springs, it turns suddenly to
the left and enters a tunnel that leads through the heart of the mountains. Beyond this
tunnel the roadbed is in granite, and the banding of this rock gives little indication of
the real structure of the mountain range. The streams have cut deep canyons, and many
interesting views may be seen on the right of the train as it passes from branch to branch
of South Boulder Creek, here crossing a, canyon on a high trestle, and there plunging into
the darkness of a tunnel through a spur. Where South Boulder Creek is first seen it lies
far below the level of the road, but its bed slopes steeply headward and is finally
crossed by the railroad well above the sharp canyon, which represents the latest period of
stream cutting in this region. If the trip is made in July the traveler may have the
pleasure of seeing in the foothills acres of the beautiful Rocky Mountain columbine, which
has been adopted as the floral emblem of Colorado. The plant grows about 3 feet high, and
each stalk bears a number of delicate lavendertinted blossoms which become white as the
The first large village above the point where the railroad crosses South Boulder Creek is
Rollinsville. Here the traveler sees no suggestions of mining, but if he could follow for
a distance of 4 miles the road that climbs the hill on the north (right) he would find
himself in a district that furnishes the metal for the filaments of most of the
incandescent electric bulbs made in this country. This metal is tungsten, and a small
percentage of it is contained in the steel from which most of the modern machine tools are
A few miles below Tolland the valley changes from a rocky V-shaped ravine to abroad
valley having a U-shaped cross section. The meaning of such a change is [that the mountain
valley] has been carved only by the stream which occupies it. The walls slope gradually
from the ridge on either side to the stream in its bottom, and the form of a section of
such a valley, if cut directly across, would be a flat V. If after its excavation by the
stream this same valley had been occupied by a glacier the ice would have ground away the
projecting spurs on its sides and left it in the [U-shaped] form. The cross section of a
valley is a nearly infallible indication whether the valley has been carved by running
water alone or has been modified by ice. Thus the change from a V shape to a U shape a few
miles below Tolland marks the point of farthest extension of the old glacier that had its
source near the summit of James Peak and filled this valley with ice to a depth of many
hundreds of feet if not a thousand feet. Usually the foot of a glacier of this magnitude
is marked by a terminal morainea ridge of loose material carried down by the ice-but if
such a moraine was ever built in this locality it has been washed away by the stream
swollen with the waters of the melting ice.
Although the valley at Tolland and for some distance above that place is broad and the
slopes are smooth, it soon terminates abruptly at the foot of the Continental Divide, and
no railroad can ascend it much farther and succeed in crossing the range. Consequently the
engineers were forced to turn aside from what seems to he an easy pathway up the valley
and construct the road to the summit in a roundabout way by scaling the valley walls. The
train makes this climb with many turns and twists, and the traveler is generally deeply
impressed with the care and precision with which the engineers fitted the roadbed to the
mountain slopes. To the railroad engineer no slopes are too steep for railroad
construction, provided he can find ground sufficiently level to enable the road to curve
around and double back upon itself, thus zigzagging its way up the mountain slope. The
train climbs steadily upward, and one by one the ridges that from below seemed to be of
great height are surmounted and they are found to be only low spurs of the still higher
As the train nears the summit and encircles the little pond called Yankee Doodle Lake, the
traveler may see some of the effects, other than the rounding of valleys, that the old
glaciers have produced on the mountain scenery. In the canyons below, where the ice moved
down in a great stream from the heights above, its effect was to smooth and round the
slopes and to do away with much of the ruggedness that must have marked these canyons
before they were occupied by the ice. Near the summit the ice. scooped out in the side of
the mountain great amphitheaters, called cirques, making the tops much more rugged than
they were before. The circular depression that holds Yankee Doodle Lake is such a cirque,
and all the vast rock slopes above the lake have been steepened by undercutting by the
ice. Other cirques may be seen in the mountains; indeed, the entire front above this
place, up which the railroad finds its way to the summit, consists of the walls of cirques
that have united. The steepness of this slope is due, almost entirely to the action of
ice. In places the road is constructed along the upper edge of one of these great cirque
walls, and the traveler may look down on the right nearly 1,000 feet into the, cirque
below. Although the cliff has an appreciable slope, it appears to be vertical especially
when viewed from the moving train.
At last the traveler reaches the summit, at Corona, 11,680 feet above the level of the
sea, but the great snowsheds through which the train passes have prevented him from
getting a fair view of the mountain summit. As soon as the train stops at Corona he may
pass from the confinement of the snowshed and enjoy to the utmost the boundless space of
the mountain top. On the crest in any direction there are peaks higher than Corona, the
most prominent being James
Peak (13,260 feet) on the south and Longs Peak (14,255 feet) on the north, but they
can be seen from only a few points. On the west the traveler can look down on the, billowy
surface of Middle Park, one of the surface basins in the midst of the mountains; and on
the east he can look over the wide expanse of spur and ravine up which the train has so
The railroad beyond Corona descends the fairly smooth western slope of the Front Range by
many loops and turns until it reaches the floor of Middle Park. It crosses this immense
basin in the heart of the mountains, cuts through the Gore or Park Range beyond in a deep,
rugged canyon, and then continues westward across. the great plateau country of
northwestern Colorado. The plateau contains one of the great coal fields of the State,
which has only recently been developed. The coal is better than that of the Denver Basin,
and much of it finds a ready market in the towns on the plains between Denver and Omaha.
GEORGETOWN AND MOUNT McCLELLAN.
The journey to Georgetown is made on a narrow-gage line of the Colorado & Southern
Railway and is confined entirely to the valley of Clear Creek, which joins South Platte
River about 6 miles north of the Union Station in Denver. From Denver to Golden the
general course-of the road is up the broad, flat valley, which is irrigated by water taken
from the creek higher up. This valley is highly cultivated, and many fields of grain may
be seen from the train. Near the mountains, the bottom of the valley is composed largely
of gravel and boulders brought down by the creek in times of flood, and crops grown on
such soil are scanty even where water for irrigation is abundant.
Just below Golden (named in honor of Tom Golden, one of the pioneers of this region) the
valley narrows and is flanked on either side by flat-topped hills, or mesas, as they are
generally called in the Southwest, about 400 feet high. These mesas are remnants of a once
extensive plain formed at this level by streams that planed off the inequalities of the
land. Where the beds of rock are horizontal, as they are about Denver, the surface of the
plain corresponds to the bedding of the rocks, but where, the rocks are upturned on the
flank of the mountain, as they are, at Golden, they were planed off just the same. After
the streams had reduced the soft rocks to a relatively smooth surface a great flood of
lava, that was ejected from some vent in the mountains rolled out over the plain and
spread for a distance of many miles. When this mass of' lava cooled and became
consolidated it formed a rock called basalt, which is harder than the soft sandstone and
shale upon which it rests, and for that reason it served as a protecting cap when the
region was uplifted and streams began to cut the rocks away. Most of the basalt is now
gone, and the parts seen from the train are doubtless mere, fragments of a once extensive
and continuous sheet. The rocks upon which the lava was spread are the Denver and Arapahoe
formations, of Tertiary age, and the Laramie formation, of Cretaceous age.
Behind these mesas, which are outliers or foothills of the mountains, is a beautiful
valley, which has been eroded in the upturned edges of the softer and lower formations.
These rocks can not be seen distinctly from the train, but in nearby localities they are
well exposed as they bend upward and rest upon the granite that forms the mountain mass.
In this valley is Golden, which for a time was the Territorial capital. Here is the
Colorado School of Mines, some of the buildings of which may be seen on the left. Here are
also smelters and mills for reducing the ores mined farther up the creek.
Clear Creek Area
Immediately on leaving Golden the train plunges into the narrow, tortuous canyon which
Clear Creek has cut into the uplifted granite mass. When boarding the train at Denver the
traveler may have wondered why this road was ever built narrow gage (3 feet), or, even if
so built, why it was not changed years ago to the standard gage, but when he sees this
canyon he no longer questions the wisdom of the builders of the road in adopting the
narrow gage nor that of the management in retaining it. He soon realizes that only a
single narrow-gage line could have turned and twisted its way through the canyon and that
the change to standard gage would mean the building of extensive tunnels and many bridges.
The little narrowgage line, on the contrary, as shown in Plates
VI and VII,
winds around every bend of the creek and every projecting spur of the mountain and
required almost no cutting of the solid rock.
Although the canyon nearly everywhere has precipitous walls, it varies greatly in width.
At some places, it is merely a cleft sufficient to accommodate the stream that carved it;
at others it is so broad that the stream has built flood plains upon which the railroad
has little difficulty in finding its way. The cutting power of the stream has been nearly
uniform throughout, but the resultant form of the canyon depends largely upon the
resisting power of the rock through which it has been cut. Thus, where the granite is
exceedingly massive-that is, without joints or fissures of any kind to weaken its
resistancethe stream has not greatly widened its gorge, but where the rocks are seamed
with innumerable joints, or where they have been so much. squeezed as to form schists, the
stream has cut out a wide canyon.
The rock in which the canyon is cut is generally called granite, but some of it is banded
and is properly called gneiss. The bands of the gneiss show great contortions, which are
the result of movements in the rocky crust of the earth. The gneiss is also seamed with
dikes (rocky material that was once melted in the earth's interior and forced into
fissures of the rock) and veins (mineral matter deposited from waters circulating through
fissures in the rock) of great variety of color and texture. In places the rocks are
nearly black with the mineral called hornblende; in other places they are composed largely
of white or pink feldspar or are gray granites.
At Forks Creek the canyon divides, and the railroad branch to the right runs to Central
City and Blackhawk, two of the most important and oldest gold-mining centers of Colorado.
Central City was built near the spot where, in 1859, John H. Gregory made the second great
discovery of gold in this region.
A few miles above Forks Creek the canyon becomes less rugged. The first level bottom land
the traveler has seen since leaving Golden is occupied by the town of Idaho Springs
(altitude 7,556 feet), which is noted both as a, pleasure resort and as a mining center.
The waters are mild solutions of carbonate and sulphate of soda and have temperatures
ranging from 750 to 120 degrees F. Hotels and bathhouses make the place very attractive to
the traveler who can spend a few days in the bracing atmosphere of this mountain resort.
The first really noteworthy discovery of gold in Colorado is commemorated by a, monument
at the mouth of Chicago Gulch, a canyon entering that of Clear Creek from the left of the
railroad nearly opposite the station at Idaho Springs. This discovery was made by George
A. Jackson in January, 1859. When winter was over Jackson returned to the mountains and on
May 7 began placer mining on Jackson Bar.
One of the most notable achievements of mining engineering in this region is the Argo
(formerly Newhouse) tunnel, whose large waste dumps may be seen in the eastern part of
Idaho Springs. This tunnel extends northward for 5 miles to a point beneath the town of
Central City. It cuts many of the veins far below the surface, draining the upper workings
and facilitating deep mining. Much ore is brought from the Central City district to Idaho
Springs through this tunnel, and mining at or below its level has shown that rich gold ore
persists in many of the veins at very great depths.
In the vicinity of Idaho Springs the canyon, although wider than it is in the neighborhood
of Forks Creek, is still narrow and the .walls are studded with jagged or loose rock as
they were left by the cutting of the stream and the action of the weather, but from a
point a few miles above the town to the crest of the range the canyon bottoms are broad
and the slopes are generally smooth and round, so that a cross section of the valley
resembles in shape the letter U. This form of valley is due to the scouring action of a
glacier that originated near the summit of the range and flowed down the canyon to a point
where the ice melted faster than it was supplied from above and where the forward movement
of the glacier consequently stopped. Although all this happened ages and ages ago, the
surface features above and below this point still present a striking contrast, for the
work of the glacier has not yet been obliterated by weathering. The end of the glacier,
which was only a few miles above Idaho Springs, is also marked by a, moraine-a great
accumulation of rounded and scratched boulders that were brought down by the ice and
dumped at its lower end.
Both active and abandoned mines and many prospects may be seen on almost every slope of
the canyon wall above Idaho Springs. In Gilpin and Clear Creek counties, as in most old
mining regions, only a small proportion of the mines are in operation at any one time.
Some of those that are not operated are " dead" -that is, their ore bodies have
been entirely worked out- but many are idle only temporarily because of inefficient
management or insufficient funds with which to make further explorations for new ore
bodies. Few veins are rich through their entire extent, and one company may exhaust its
resources in exploring lean parts and its successor may continue the exploration for only
a short distance and strike rich ore.
A number of the mines that are now idle, especially those, near Lawson, Empire Station,
Georgetown, and Silver Plume, were worked mainly for silver and have produced fabulously
rich ore. Its unusual richness was caused by a process termed " downward
enrichment," by which the silver in the upper parts of the veins was dissolved by
surface waters and redeposited f arther down in the earth. The ores so enriched do not
persist to great depths, and on their exhaustion the mines working them are forced to shut
down, for the unenriched ore below is too lean to be mined at a profit.
At Georgetown the train begins to climb the well-known "Loop" by which the
railroad loops back over itself in ascending the steep mountain side. Above the Loop lies
Silver Plume, shown in Plate VIII, which
has been one of the most active mining camps in the State. It is reported that more than
$29,000,000 in silver has been taken from the mountain north of the town.
The traveler's interest in the things he sees above Silver Plume, centers mainly in the
engineering feat of scaling the steep mountain side and in the fine views be obtains
during the ascent. After zigzagging back and forth up the steep side of the valley the
train passes around a point and runs up another valley to its head and then, after making
several switchbacks, finds its way to the summit of Mount McClellan. The view from this
point is shown in Plate IX.
Mount McClellan is not on the Continental Divide but on a high spur that branches off from
it toward the east. The water that falls on both sides of this peak finds its way into
Clear Creek and eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico, but that which falls on different
sides of Grays and Torrys peaks, which are on the Continental Divide, runs into streams
that flow in diverse directions, part of it reaching the Gulf of Mexico and part of it the
Pacific Ocean. These peaks are all more than 14,000 feet in altitude and are prominent
features that may be seen toward the west, but they do not appear to stand so high above
their surroundings as Pikes Peak and some other well-known mountain summits.
The slope on the east side of Mount McClellan is smooth and gentle, but that on the west
side is precipitous, because the snow and ice that long ago lay on the west side, under
the shadow of the towering summits of Grays and Torrys peaks, were more protected from the
sun and wind than those on the east side, and consequently, during the great ice age, an
enormous glacier lay in the angle between Mount McClellan and Grays Peak and cut out a
great amphitheater in the rocks, which, because of its circular form, is called by
geologists a cirque. If the traveler standing on the ragged crest of this old cirque and
looking down 2,500 feet into it has a vivid imagination, lie may still see the great
glacier that once filled it and flowed down the valley nearly to Idaho Springs.
The route followed by the traveler throughout this trip is practically parallel with a
high-tension electric transmission line of the Colorado Power Co. The power is developed
at a large hydroelectric plant on Colorado River above Glenwood Springs and is carried to
most of the mining camps in the mountains, crossing the Continental Divide three times and
finally descending on the east to Georgetown, Idaho Springs, and Denver. The line may be
distinguished by the high steel towers and the strip of cleared land along its right of
SOUTH PLATTE CANYON.
The canyon of South Platte River southwest of Denver offers many attractions to visitors
from other parts of the world. There are no regular one-day excursions to this part of the
mountains, but the train service on the narrowgage Colorado & Southern Railway is so
arranged that the traveler may easily visit such parts of the canyon as he deems most
interesting and return to Denver the same day. If he is content with seeing the lower part
of the canyon only he should go to the village of South Platte, 29 miles from Denver, but
should he wish to see all its more rugged parts he should go as far as Estabrook, 52 miles
distant. Many persons go to resorts farther up the canyon, even as far as Grant (66
miles), but this upper part of the canyon is not so rugged-it lacks the features that give
to the lower part its peculiar charm. Those who go to, the upper part do so on account of
the fishing, which is reported to be unusually good.
On leaving the Union Station in Denver, the railway crosses South Platte River and runs up
on the west side of the stream to the mountain front. At Sheridan Junction a branch line
turns to the west (right) to Morrison, which is in the same valley as that in which Golden
is situated. A mile up this line and on the main terrace that borders the river valley is
Fort Logan, the largest military post in Colorado. The train passes some fine country
places and goes through large areas of irrigated lands in a high state of cultivation.
At a siding called Willard, 17 miles from Denver, the traveler may see on his right a
sharp-crested ridge, which is formed by the upturned edge of the, Dakota sandstone, the
same rock that forms the sharp hogback at Plainview, on the " Moffat road." At
first this ridge seems to stretch along the, entire mountain front, and from the river
bottom it appears almost as large as the mountains themselves, but on nearer approach it
dwindles into comparative insignificance. The railway runs nearly parallel with this ridge
for some distance, and then in following the river valley it turns more toward the west
and cuts through it directly toward the mountains.
The reservoirs of the Denver waterworks, in which all sediment is allowed to settle
before the water is turned into the city mains, are at Willard. The reservoirs are
tastefully arranged and beautified with flowers, so that they make a very pleasing
appearance. After passing the settling reservoirs beds of red sandstone similar to those
which make so striking an appearance in the Garden of the Gods, near Manitou, may be seen
across the river, dipping away from the mountains at an angle of about 70 degrees. Most of
the beds of rock on the mountain front have, similar dips, showing that at the time the
mountains were uplifted the beds of sedimentary rock were bent up in a, great fold, the
upper part of which has been worn away, leaving only the suggestion of the upfold in the
steeply inclined beds. Before the train reaches the mountains the great steel pipe that
carries the, Denver city water may be seen at several places on the right, where it spans
the ravines on steel bridges.
Just above Waterton the train enters the mountains by a canyon cut in the hard granite.
Here the city water main passes over the railway and then plunges into a tunnel through a
projecting spur. A large flume carrying water for irrigation may also be seen on the
opposite side of the river, and it passes through the same spur that is pierced by the
The canyon which the train is now following is narrow and tortuous, and its walls are
generally rough and precipitous. It extends to the town of South Platte, at the junction
of the two forks of the river. The course of the city water main on the opposite side of
the, stream may be followed by the white telephone poles up to the head gate. The canyon
above this place differs in width in different localities. In some places it has a flood
plain, but in others (as shown in Pl. X)
it is so narrow that there is room only for the narrowgage (3-foot) railroad beside the
river, and this road has to curve as sharply as the stream.
The one feature that differentiates this canyon from others in the mountain region is the
great number of trees that dot the rocky slopes on both its sides, but more particularly
on the southern. The soft verdure of the evergreen trees relieves the ruggedness and the
barrenness of the rocky walls, giving the canyon a picturesqueness seldom seen in other
canyons of this region. Pine and spruce are the most common trees, but here and there
stand groups of aspen, with their ever-moving leaves, which in summer give a softness to
the slopes and in autumn add a blaze of glory to the somber canyon walls.
South Platte is at the junction of the South and North forks of the river. South Fork,
which is much the larger stream, drains nearly all of South Park and furnishes most of the
water for the city's use. In the early autumn, when the snow has disappeared from the
mountain tops, these streams are scarcely able to supply the city's needs. To remedy this
deficiency a dam has been built some distance up South Fork valley to impound the water
and hold it until needed. This dam has produced a fine body of water known as Cheesman
From South Platte the traveler may easily return to Denver, or if he chooses to go farther
he can continue his journey up the canyon, which in some places takes on the aspect of a
common mountain valley and in others is bounded by rocky walls several hundred feet high
and so steep that they appear to be vertical. The massive granite, on weathering, tends to
peel off like the layers of an onion, leaving a curved surface, in places like that of a
great dome. (See Pl.
XI, B.) Such a feature is well shown on a large scale at the station of Dome Rock.
Where the granite is traversed by many fissures or joints it is so easily broken down that
few ledges can be seen, and the surface is covered with a mantle of finely broken rock.
The roughest part of the canyon above South Platte lies between Cliff and Estabrook, where
the gneiss is again exposed and makes a narrow, rugged defile. This canyon, like the one
below it, has several aspects, which depend upon the character of the rock and upon the
position of the joints.
OTHER TRIPS OF INTEREST.
The 70-mile circle trip through the Denver Mountain Park covers the most remarkable
municipally owned park in the world. Within an hour's ride from Denver are the foothills
of the park, backed by the towering peaks of the Continental Divide, with wild flowers,
whispering pines, and singing torrents. The park includes a game sanctuary for buffalo,
deer, and other Rocky Mountain animals, a free automobile camp, shelter houses, camping
facilities, and hotels. The body of Col. IV. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), the noted scout and
plainsman, rests on Lookout Mountain.
Many other beautiful and interesting drives may be made from Denver, and many railroad
trips may be made that will well repay the traveler for the time spent, but some of these
would consume more than one day and will therefore not be mentioned. One exception worth
noting, however, is a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which lies just back of
Estes Park and includes Longs Peak. This park should be visited by all who delight in
rugged mountain scenery.