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Area History


Native Americans were hunting and fishing in the Rocky Mountain National Park millennia before the pyramids were built in Egypt. Surprisingly, there was never any contact between Native Americans and Europeans in this area. In 1859, Joel Estes and his son came across the meadows that would eventually bear his name, even though the first European in that location had been Rufus Sage, sixteen years earlier. The Estes were so taken by this place they moved there the next year and began a ranching operation. This residence lasted only six years as the winters were far too severe at this altitude.

The Fourth Earl of Dunraven, Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, began to set up a feudal-type estate in the area, adding land to his holdings via various nefarious and illegal means. In 1877, the Earl built the Estes Park Hotel, which was usually referred to as "The English Hotel."

The small mining town of Lulu City was established in 1880, but by 1883 the boom went bust and both it and a satellite town by the name of Dutchtown were abandoned. Due to the high altitude, the area was poor ranchland, so for the next half-century the only economic engine in the area was tourism, which came from all over the world to marvel at the amazing Rocky Mountain views. One of the major contributors to the tourism boom was F. O. Stanley (of the Stanley Steamer automobile) who arrived at Estes Park in 1903 on a restorative trip. Finding himself revitalized, Stanley opened the Stanley Hotel in 1909, built an electrical generating plant on the Fall River and financed various road improvements.

Enos Mills had arrived in the area when he was just 14 years old and later bought the Longs Park Inn. He was the first to propose the establishment of a National Park in the area. Mills' vision was for a park many times larger than most of his contemporaries wanted. In 1913 the bill to create the (smaller) Rocky Mountains National Park was introduced to Congress, and the park was finally inaugurated in 1915. The inauguration was marked by the largest gathering of "horseless carriages" yet in the state of Colorado, but many other came on horseback, by wagon, or even by foot. To this day, Rocky Mountains National Park attracts visitors from all countries in the world who come to revel in this piece of Colorado paradise.


Visit the town website for more information on Rocky Mountain National Park.