Presented by Jeremy Agnew, Chair of Volunteer History Committee
A Brief History of Cheyenne Mountain State Park
WHO WE ARE
Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, at the south end of Colorado Springs. This location is the boundary between the plains of Eastern Colorado and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The combination has created a diverse biological habitat that includes a resident herd of mule deer and a flock of wild turkeys, as well as black bears, elk, bobcats, coyotes, and many other smaller animals, including two large colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs.
A wide variety of flowering plants and birds that represent the plains zone as well as the foothills are found in the park.
IN THE BEGINNING
Approximately 60 million years ago the underlying part of the earth’s mantle was gradually pushed up into the air to form Cheyenne Mountain. This created a solid core of Pikes Peak granite as the foundation for the mountain. Over a period of millions of years, landslides and debris flows redistributed a large amount of material, which resulted in a dramatic backdrop to the park of rocky cliffs and steep ravines.
Before settlers arrived in Colorado, the primary inhabitants of the Pike’s Peak region were bands of roving Native Americans who traveled back and forth through the area between their summer and winter hunting grounds. Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other tribes roamed the plains and mountains around Colorado Springs, frequently stopping to bathe in the healing mineral waters of Manitou Springs.
Cheyenne Mountain is named for the Native American Cheyenne tribe. Originally a farming culture from around the western Great Lakes area of Minnesota, the Cheyenne were driven away from their homeland in the mid-1700s by the Dakota Sioux to the Great Plains, where they became nomads who hunted buffalo. The name “cheyenne” is a Dakota word that means “people of a different speech,” because the two tribes had very different languages. The Cheyenne called themselves tsistsistas, which means “The People.”
Native American legends form the basis for stories about the features visible on Cheyenne Mountain. One of them tells how the Great Spirit Manitou became increasingly unhappy with his people and decided to wash them away in a flood. Two of them, however, Tlaz and Toluca, were happy in their homeland and fashioned a canoe to survive the deluge. The flood finally started to recede as a huge dragon-lizard named Thirst started to drink up all the water. The dragon drank so much that it became bloated and unable to move. Manitou was afraid that the dragon would drink all the water in the world so he turned it to stone. Looking south from downtown Colorado Springs, the bloated body of the dragon-lizard can be imagined against the skyline.
Some say that the canoe of Tlaz and Toluca can be seen on the top of south Cheyenne Mountain, with the two still sitting in it. Others claim that te canoe became St. Peter’s Dome, a sharp rock outcropping a few miles north of Cheyenne Mountain.