Time Line of Historic Events

10,000 BC

Clovis Paleoindian hunters enter the park as the glaciers retreat.

6,000 BC to 150 AD

Archaic hunter-gatherers occupy park in the spring and summers. These are the ancestors to many tribes in the western United States (Ute, Comanche, Goshiute, Shoshone).


Ute enter North Park and Middle Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.


Apache are in the high country, including the park.


Arapaho make first appearance in the park.


Stephen A. Long Expedition on the plains and are first non-Indians to see Longs Peak. Records of his expedition provide some information about the park.


Rufus B. Sage is first explorer to enter east side of park and write about it.


Joel Estes enters what is now Estes Park and starts a ranch.


John Wesley Powell, William Byers (Rocky Mountain News) and others make the first ascent of Longs Peak.


The Pole Hill stage road connects Estes Park with Loveland - all day trip one way.


First woman to climb Longs Peak was Addie Alexander followed by a Miss Jane Bartlett and then by well-known lecturer and author Anna E. Dickinson in 1873.


Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden's "U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories" enters the park.


Abner Sprague homesteads in Moraine Park and builds Sprague's Ranch (later Stead's Ranch) and establishes tourism and dude ranching in the park.


State of Colorado created by Congress - "The Centennial State."

1874 - 1886

Mining on the west side of the park; Lulu City and Gaskill Towns established


McGraw Ranch aka Indian Head Ranch established

1895 - 1935

Grand Ditch is built to bring water from Never Summer Range across La Poudre Pass and down the Cache La Poudre to the plains for agriculture.

1896 - 1902

Mining on the east side of the park (Eugenia and Meeker Mines)


Antiquities Act passed protects archeological sites and allows the president to declare National Monuments


Road up the Big Thompson River (now Highway 34) completed.


Stanley Hotel constructed in Estes Park.


Squeaky Bob Wheeler opens the Hotel de Hardscrabble (later known as the Phantom Valley Ranch) in the Kawuneeche Valley for tourists.


Enos Mills, James Grafton Rodgers, and others begin lobbying for the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park.


Arapaho pack trip provides 30 Indian names for mountains and other topographic features in the park - trip published by Oliver Toll in 1962.


September 4, 1915 - Rocky Mountain National Park dedicated.


Organic Act establishing the National Park Service is enacted by Congress.


Winter sports introduced, including first Winter Carnival

1913 - 1920

Fall River Road constructed as first road over Continental Divide between Estes Park and Grand Lake.

1929 - 1933

Trail Ridge Road constructed.

1933 - 1942

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camps in Hollowell Park, Little Horseshoe Park, and Kawuneeche Valley.


Hidden Valley becomes a ski area; closed in 1992 and removed by 2002.


CCC crews remodel Moraine Park Lodge into the Moraine Park Museum and build the nearby amphitheater that ushered in a new era of park interpretation and education programs.

1937 - 1947

Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Alva B. Adams tunnel completed under park.


Abner Sprague becomes first park visitor to pay entrance fee.


National Park Service Director Conrad Worth announces Mission 66, a construction program designed to bring the National Parks into modern conditions for increasing amount of visitors.


New bridge over the Big Thompson River is completed as part of Mission 66 to provide for a continuous Bear Lake Road from Trail Ridge Road to the lake, and the present Beaver Meadows Entrance is opened.


Wilderness Act passed which later allows for further protection of the park.


National Historic Preservation Act protects historic and prehistoric resources on federal lands.


Beaver Meadows Headquarters building finished; declared National Historic Landmark in 2002 as the only building in the NPS designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright school of architecture.


Lawn Lake dam collapses - flood kills 3 people and severely impacts Estes Park.


McGraw Ranch purchased and buildings are remodeled and turned into a research center by 2001.


Lily Lake area purchased and popular handicapped trail constructed.


New Fall River Visitor Center opens. Congressional act required to allow private company to build visitor center outside the park, with NPS staff.


Grand Ditch breach occurs.


Hidden Valley reopens for winter sledding and summer picnics.


Sister Park Agreement signed with Tatra National Park in Poland.


Record of Decision on Final Elk and Vegetation Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement signed.


Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 was passed, providing additional protection by designating most of the park's backcountry as wilderness.


Trail Ridge Road resurfaced


Sister Park Agreement signed with Tusheti National Park in the Republic of Georgia.


Bear Lake Road resurfacing completes the reconstruction or resurfacing of all major paved roads in the park in the last ten years.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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