Explorers Chart New Territory

Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike is sent on an expedition to the west.

In 1806, the Governor of Upper Louisiana and commander of the army, General James Wilkinson, sent Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike on an expedition to the west. Pike perceived his mission as, "to attach the Indians to our government, and to acquire such geographical knowledge of the southwestern boundary of Louisiana (Purchase) as to enable our government to enter into a definite arrangement for a line of demarcation between that territory and North Mexico."

By November of 1806, Pike and his men had reached the site of present day Pueblo. Pike ordered the men to build a log breastwork. The main contingent of his party stayed there while Pike and three men attempted to climb Grand Peak (later renamed Pikes Peak). The men failed at their attempt due to a lack of provisions and snowy conditions. Pike rejoined his men and headed west. They had to skirt the deep Royal Gorge, and the party ended up heading in a huge circle. The group finally headed south into the Wet Mountain Valley and onto Spanish soil. In January of 1807, Pike’s party almost froze to death beneath the forbidding Sangres. Pike and his men endured temperatures below zero, deep snow, blizzards and days without food. On January 18, Pike shot a bison for meat. Finally, most of the party proceeded into the San Luis Valley. Pike was captured by the Spanish and taken to Chihuahua before being released to return east. Pike’s
published account of his expedition would do much to lure men to the west.

After Pike, other daring men explored our country’s western frontier to make maps, learn of it’s natural wealth and find routes for transcontinental rail roads. The expeditions included those of: Major John C. Fremont who stopped at El Pueblo on his 1843-184-4 surveying expedition for the U.S. Topographical Corps. Fremont traveled through Pueblo again in 1848. The private midwinter expedition involved looking for a route for a transcontinental railroad. Fremont had hoped to again secure Kit Carson as his guide, but Kit was unavailable. Instead, the 62-year-old mountain man, Bill Williams, served as Fremont’s guide. the San Juan Mountains, 10 of the party died of cold and starvation.

President Franklin Pierce sent Arm explorer, Captain John Gunnison, to find the safest and best route for transcontinental railroad. The group camped near present-day Colorado City in August of 1853.

Lt. George Wheeler, a topographic officer for the Army, and his men covered 175,000 square miles of the west between 1869 and– 1879. His mapping efforts included surveying the area around the Spanish Peaks to the south of the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway.

Dr. Ferdinand Hayden surveyed the western territories in 1870 including much of the Arkansas River drainage. His party included zoologists, botanists, anthropologists, painters, and William Henry Jackson and their photographer.

Today, Many towns, rivers, mountains and plants bear the names of these brave explorers.