The limitations of a chapter permit no mention of the gigantic prehistoric monsters of land, sea, and air which once haunted the site of this noble park, nor description of its more intimate beauties, nor detail of its mountaineering joys; for all of which and much other invaluable information I refer those interested to publications of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, by Doctor Willis T. Lee and Major Roger W. Toll. But something must be told of its early history.
In 1819 the exploring expedition which President Madison sent west under Colonel S. H. Long, while camping at the mouth of La Poudre River, was greatly impressed by the magnificence of a lofty, square-topped mountain. They approached it no nearer, but named it Longs Peak, in honor of their leader. Parkman records seeing it in 1845.
The pioneers, of course, knew the country. Deer, elk, and sheep were probably hunted there in the forties and fifties. Joel Estes, the first settler, built a cabin in the foothills in 186o, hence the title of Estes Park. James Nugent, afterward widely celebrated as “Rocky Mountain Jim,” arrived in 1868. TOthers followed slowly.
William N. Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, made the first attempt to climb Longs Peak in 1864. He did not succeed then, but four years later, with a party which included Major J. W. Powell, who made the first exploration of the Grand Canyon the following year, he made the summit. In 1871 the Reverend E. J. Lamb, the first regular guide on Longs Peak, made the first descent by the east precipice, a dangerous feat.
The Earl of Dunraven visited Estes Park in 1871, attracted by the big game hunting, and bought land. He projected an immense preserve, and induced men to file claims which he planned to acquire after they had secured possession; but the claims were disallowed. Albert Bierstadt visited Dunraven in 1874, and painted canvases which are famous in American art.
It was Dunraven, also, who built the first hotel. Tourists began to arrive in 1865. In 1874 the first stage line was established, coming in from Longmont. Telephone connection was made in 1906.
Under the name of Estes Park, the region prospered. Fifty thousand people were estimated to have visited it in 1914. It was not, however, till the national park was created, in 1915, that the mountains assumed considerable importance except as an agreeable and inspiring background to the broad plateau.