Aside from having a great selection of outdoor activities, many people come to the Southwest to explore Colorado culture. Indeed, because of the many organizations that serve to preserve remnants of the history of Colorado, exploring Colorado culture is not a difficult task. From the railroads, petroglyphs and various museums, there is a good deal of history in Colorado just waiting to be explored.
The history of Colorado dates back to its first inhabitants, who were probably the Anasazi Indians. About four centuries prior to the arrival of Columbus, these cliff dwellers lived in the canyons of the southwestern corner of Colorado. At close of the thirteenth century, these Native Americans abandoned their cliff dwellings and moved southward.
An important period in the history of Colorado begins with the arrival of the Spanish explorers, who were the first Europeans in the area. This era of Colorado State history commenced in 1540, when Coronado led an expedition from Mexico. They hoped to find the Seven Cities of Cibola where the streets were supposedly paved with gold. Over the next 250 years, the Spanish would make many expeditions into the Colorado area. In observing modern Colorado culture, you will see obvious remnants of these two important periods in the history of Colorado: the Native American inhabitants and the occupation by the Spanish. These aspects of Colorado culture are represented in the prolific displays of Native American art and jewelry, as well the vast variety of Mexican restaurants throughout the state.
The next significant period in the history of Colorado begins in 1800, when Spain ceded a vast area, including Colorado, to Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Then, three years later, the same piece of land was sold by Napoleon to the United States as the "Louisiana Purchase". A dramatic turn of events in Colorado State history occurred in 1806, when President Jefferson commissioned Lieutenant Zebulon Pike to explore this purchased territory. Little did Pike know that his exploration would lead to the discovery of the 14,110-foot peak, which today bears his name. Today, Pike's Peak is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Colorado. Pike's Peak is not only important in Colorado State history. As the place that inspired the writing of America the Beautiful, it plays an important role in the history of the United States.
While Pike's Peak was definitely an exciting discovery, rumors of gold in Colorado brought about even more enthusiasm. The gold rush era was perhaps the most event-filled period of Colorado State history. When gold was found in California in 1849, it inspired a search for gold in the Rocky Mountains. In fact, the prospectors are considered the first extensive settlement of Colorado. In July of 1858, a Georgia miner by the name of William Green Russell discovered several hundred dollars worth of gold at the Dry Creek in the present-day Denver suburb of Englewood.
After Russell made another gold discovery on Cherry Creek, General William Larimer led a group of men from the Kansas Territory to establish a settlement in the area. The settlement was named Denver City in honor of James W. Denver, governor of Kansas Territory. Cherry Creek was used as a boundary between Denver City and another community established earlier, Aurora. However, in spite of the initial rivalry between the two cities, the two communities were consolidated into the single community of Denver in 1860. The next important period in Colorado State history occurred in January of 1861, when Congress voted statehood for Kansas. Shortly thereafter, a bill to create Colorado Territory was passed by President Lincoln.
This is just a glimpse at some of the important events in the history of Colorado. However, history in Colorado is alive in many of the state's attractions. For example, if you want to learn more about Colorado's military role in World War II, be sure to read the article about Vail and Camp Hale.