Previous Names of the Cache la Poudre River

By Sue Abbott Schneider

I have often wondered what the Poudre River was called before it was called the Cache la Poudre River.  We know that when Major Stephen Long led an expedition in 1820, he referred to the river as Pateros Creek.  However, it was also called Piteux, French for “piteous”, and some suspect Pateros somehow originated with Piteux.  There were several stories of fur trappers wandering the area, one short on food and delirious, the other being left to guard a trap line and becoming insane due to isolation, both stories led to naming the waterway “piteous” or Piteux.  When William Ashley and Jim Beckwourth spent the winter of 1824-25 and trapped in the canyon, it was still known as Pateros Creek.  But ten years later, in 1835 Colonel Henry Dodge passed through the area and he was the first to officially call it the Cache La Poudre.

We all know the story of the French trappers who supposedly stashed their gunpowder during inclement weather sometime in the 1820s and the subsequent naming of the river and the canyon “Cache La Poudre” (the French was actually Cache a la Poudre, or “cache of powder”).

But before it was Piteux, or Pateros or Cache La Poudre it had names that were not French, but indigenous.  The Sioux called it “Minni Luzahan” which means “Swift Current” (makes sense) and somewhere I read that the Arapaho called it “ce’ einox” or “jai annox” for game bag.

Wondering why it would be called game bag led me down an interesting path of discovery.  Oliver Toll, a 22-year-old volunteer agreed to serve as ethnographer for a trip organized by the Colorado Mountain Club.  Members of the club were inspired to approach Arapahoe elders on the Wind River Reservation and encourage them to come back to Colorado and provide information about the area.  The Club was hoping to convince Congress to create Rocky Mountain National Park.  The trip took place the summer of 1914 (July 14-29) and included Toll, three indigenous men (Gun Griswold who was 73, Sherman Sage was 63, Tom Crispin who was part Arapahoe, 38 and served as interpreter), a “Princeton boy” named David Hawkins and backcountry guide Shep Husted (an early homesteader in the Estes Park area).  They rode horseback and hiked and traversed the continental divide four times in two weeks.  Although much of the report focuses on the Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park area, they did camp at Poudre Lakes (headwaters for the Poudre River) and traveled by the site of Lulu City, over Thunder Pass, to the source of the Michigan River (Michigan Lakes and American Lakes).    They also shared many stories, place names, recounted battles and reminisced about their time spent in the area prior to being forced onto the reservation.

Toll pointed out in his report immediately following the trip that it was organized to record the “Indian names for the geographical features of the country, and any other information that was obtained was merely incidental. Probably some of the names, and perhaps some of the stories, were inaccurate, and perhaps manufactured for the occasion, but in the main I am convinced that they were the genuine Indian names and legends.”  Toll’s report is fascinating, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested (Arapaho Names and Trails by Oliver Toll can be purchased on Amazon).

I focused on the areas they visited that were closest to the Poudre Canyon.  On Sunday, the 19th they climbed Trail Ridge and they camped at Poudre Lakes that evening. The indigenous men identified an old Arapaho summer camp about 200 yards down from the lake.  Monday, the 20th they climbed Specimen Mountain and then crossed Milner Pass and descended Beaver Creek to the North Fork of the Grand, where they spent the night.  Tuesday, the 21st, they followed the North Fork up past the town of Lulu and over Lulu Pass (Thunder Pass) to the head of the Michigan.  They pitched camp there “in the early afternoon just as the regular afternoon’s rain was commencing.”  Wednesday, the 22nd, they climbed a shoulder of Saw Tooth Mountain, where they “spent over an hour asking questions, then back in the direction of camp where they traced out the old Indian trail on the north side of the Pass.”

The two older indigenous men had been young boys when the Arapaho roamed the Estes Park area, but the tribe had left the region and traveled north to follow the buffalo which had been driven off by the advance of the white men.  The Utes followed the Arapaho into the area, and many white men regarded it as having always been Ute territory, but in fact it was Arapaho until the mid 1800s.  They regarded it as a huge game preserve and hunted it extensively.  They warred with other tribes to keep the lands entirely to themselves and they migrated with the game, heading to the mountains in the summer and out on the plains in the winter. The bison at that time ranged all through the mountain parks.

In Toll’s report I discovered the following: “Tom told us of one time they had gone quite awhile without finding game, and than they came upon one of these little parks, or as they called them “game bags”.  In fact, the Poudre Valley, the Grand River below Hot Sulpher Springs, Strawberry Creek, Estes Park and Middle Park were all known as “game bags” (jaaianahaw).  So, the Poudre River wasn’t called game bag, it was the Poudre Valley that was called game bag.  Drat!

I never did figure out if the Arapaho had a name for the river itself, but I did find out many other interesting names for our local geography.  The Mummy Range was called “White Owls” (nah ou-baatha), perhaps from finding owls in the neighborhood or maybe a description of the silent snow-covered peaks.  The mountain back of the Mummy Range bordering on the Poudre was called the North Bodies (enon-xawtaa).   When they were on the shoulder of Saw-Tooth Mountain (Nokhu Crags) the Arapaho described quite a few points in North Park.  The mountains to the west of the Nokhu Crags were called “Seven Utes” (nees-o-tox-wahan haatha) because that’s where seven Utes were killed by the Arapaho.  They also referred to the Nokhu Crags as “Eagles Nest” (nea ha noxhu-x).

When referencing Thunder Pass (bonah ah ah-netheson) between Lulu City and Cameron Pass, the Arapaho said that “there was always a black cloud over Thunder Pass”.  The mountains directly north of Lulu they called “Mountain Sheep’s Heart” (hota-neotah) as its shape suggests.  Michigan River, they called “Shell Creek” (baaahachs) probably due to the fossils that could be found on its banks.

The Arapaho also spoke about the numerous Indian trails traversing the area.   The Arapaho marked their trails with monuments, or piles of rocks.  It was customary for everyone to put a rock on the monument as they passed.  If there were a child in the party passing by, they would say “may this child live as long as these rocks last.”  I’m assuming these were the precursors to the cairns marking trials today.  One of these trails, called Warrior’s Trail, ran from Miller’s Fork over the ridge to the east of Crystal Mountain into the Buckhorn and up the valley to Buckhorn Pass.  There it followed a little ridge that swings onto the main Poudre.  From here you could go to either Elk Horn or Manhattan, then to Cherokee Park and north to Laramie.   In the report Toll refers to a monument that was carved with pictures providing a description of the trail to “benefit the traveler”.  He said the rock was twenty or thirty feet high with the carvings above the height of a man so they could not be easily damaged.  The Arapaho told him that particular rock was somewhere along the trail between Rustic and Crystal Mountain, on the right-hand side of the trail as you travel north.  Toll must have been intrigued, because later he followed the “rangers trail” from Miller’s Fork in Estes Park to near Manhattan, but he was not able to find any traces of the old Indian trail until about a half mile east of the Rustic Hotel where he found a teepee circle and was convinced he’d found the Warrior’s Trail.  Although the land has been greatly altered it would be exciting to locate one of these trail monuments from long ago.

Columbine Lodge/Riverside Colorado

By Sue Abbott Schneider with a lot of help from Jan Gueswel

It was recently announced that the resort previously known as Columbine Lodge will soon become Riverside Colorado.  I’m sure we’ve all noticed the work being done on the site, and I for one wondered what was coming.  According to a press release and request for support, “The Mishawaka is proud to announce, Riverside Colorado, formerly the Columbine Lodge, is starting an exciting journey reimagining itself as a camping experience.  Riverside Colorado is set to redefine Colorado vacations in the Poudre Canyon with diverse accommodations, including camping, tiny homes, cabins, and more. We’re committed to sustainability and enhancing the canyon’s experience for visitors and residents alike.”

The area known as Poudre Park was originally homesteaded by Thomas Farrel in 1911.  He proceeded to take out a large loan on the property and when he failed to meet his obligations (which seemed to happen a lot) the bank sold the property to C.R. And I.N. Kite who then sold it to John H. Story in 1919. He proceeded to subdivide and plat 40 acres west of the current Columbine Lodge and he is the one responsible for naming the plat Poudre Park.  Things didn’t work out the way he had planned, and the entire original homestead was sold to the Columbine Ranch Company in October 1923.  The main investors were from Ft. Collins (Harris Akin, George Shaw and L.C. Moore) who quickly subdivided the land which resulted in three resorts, a school, a sawmill, a fire station, a church and 87 residences.  Only Columbine Lodge remains of the resorts.

The original Columbine Camp (soon to be known as Columbine Cabins) started in 1928 or 1929 and was built by Archie (“Bop”) Jordan, a Fort Collins grocer who owned Canon Avenue Grocery at 426 Canon Avenue in Fort Collins.  He and his wife Leona ran the resort successfully and were known for their hospitality.  In 1930 they advertised free picnic grounds and touted a store and lunches. In 1934 their offerings expanded to “saddle horses and ponies, cabins, fishing and the best in fountain service” in addition to the store and lunches.   By 1939 they offered “clean housekeeping cabins of one to four beds, electric lights, showers, dining room, store, gas station, saddle horses, fishing, beautiful grounds-all at reasonable rates.”  The lodge was added on to and expanded throughout the Jordan’s ownership.  The resort ads exclaimed, “Rest and Relax with Us!”

There are many stories of church groups, fraternal organizations, and youth groups staying at the resort.   In the July 24, 1930, Fort Collins Express Courier an entire column entitled “Columbine Camp” listed all the visitors that had come to stay at the resort, including an extended family from California, Arizona, and Illinois whose son was seeing his father for the first time in 29 years!  Some folks would come for the weekend, but many stayed for 2 weeks.  That same column included “The members of the German Congregational Church and 276 theater operators of Northern Colorado enjoyed their annual picnics at Columbine camp Sunday.  The two groups held an impromptu ball game which was won by the operators.  The winners were then challenged by Columbine camp guests, the challengers getting the lead and keeping it.”  That seems like a lot of theater operators and an awful large group!  “Bop” must have been a real ball lover because he also sponsored a softball team (men not women) in Fort Collins called the “Columbine Cabins” who played against teams from Ted’s Place, Northern Hotel Barbers, the Great Western Sugar Factory and others.

During the 30s and 40s the cabins were sometimes full-time rentals. Carl Gueswel’s family lived in one of the cabins in the early 40s, and another early resident lived in a 2-bedroom cabin in 1944 for $23 a month.  The cabin was rustic but did have running water.

The Jordans sold the business in 1946 (which was the year a lot of the resorts up the canyon changed hands) and it went through a succession of owners through the years including Lloyd and Donna Mae Karr, who applied log siding to the outside of the store and built some additions, Earl and Elsie Cox (who purchased the resort in 1955) Douglas Winslow, Mr. and Mrs. Newell Larson and Don and Juanita Harmes.  In May 1955 the Cox’s advertised that “Columbine Cabin Camp (Columbine Lodge)” was “under entirely new management” and had been “completely redecorated, serving delicious sandwiches-short orders, home made pies and cakes, groceries, meats, gas & oil-fishing tackle”.

There were others who ran the resort at various times, including in the 50s when May Lindsey (she was known for her indelible cream pies), her daughter Joyce was the waitress and her twins Phyllis and Mike washed dishes.   Meals could be eaten on the screened in front porch or in the dining room on the west side of the lodge.  I came across one interesting ad in the August 3, 1959 Coloradoan “George Mauk-Trade: a good cabin at Columbine Lodge for what have you”.  Sounds like a deal!

In the 1970 Poudre Canyon Directory the Columbine Lodge (as it had come to be known), advertised “fresh home-made pie, eleven clean furnished housekeeping cabins-some modern, a café, groceries, playground, fishing supplies, modern trailer spacing, and Standard gasoline (although they switched to Texaco by 1975)”.  In 1974 Glenna Fry and Gib Whitlock made modifications to the lodge and added moss rock on the outside.  In 1980 they advertised “housekeeping cabins-modern and rustic, modern trailers, campground, groceries, gas, fishing licenses, fishing tackle and a game room.”  They ran the business for 27 years and sold it to Max Arment who then sold it to Mike Jensen.  He and his mother Becky ran it as the Rusty Buffalo Campground until the most recent sale.  Despite the changes through the years, it seems the mission has remained much the same.

“Where You Can Rest, Fish and Play”

Images from the collection of Sue Schneider. 

Forest Fires and the Poudre Canyon

“Forest Service: fighting a forest fire,” Library of Congress

In Norman Fry’s autobiography Cache La Poudre: The river: as seen from 1889 (published in 1954), he recounted the “Forest Fire of 1893.” In June of that year, one of the “driest summers,” a fire began in the upper country between Bennett Creek and the Little South of the Poudre. Back then “there was no organized way of fighting fires, it just burned away. For days and weeks, all that was visible of the sun was the appearance of a big red ball through the smoke.”

The fire burned everything up to timber line and dropped into Mineral Springs Gulch (which feeds into what is now Rustic Road). It was getting closer to the river and the County sent six men up to fight the blaze, but the fire still raged and made it to the head of Sheep Gulch and timberline. Luckily the monsoon season began in July and extinguished the fire. They didn’t go to great lengths to discover the cause but suspected lightening. Fry recounts how the burned area “was a blackened waste with nothing but the trunks of the Pine and Spruce standing to show where once had been a magnificent Forest.” However, Fry remarked “Nature, however, is a wonderful re-builder.” “As always, the first growth to be noticed were the raspberries, which started the year after the fire.”

Department of Interior Artwork. “Fighting Forest Fire,” by Ernest Fiene. Library of Congress.

In 1910, the Big Blowup Fire occurred in northern Idaho and western Montana.  The fire burned over 3,000,000 acres of land. It killed 87 people (primarily firefighters) and destroyed numerous structures including entire towns. In the aftermath, the Forest Service was recognized for its firefighting efforts and their budget was nearly doubled. Early wildfire prevention and suppression strategies developed as a result of the fire. In Colorado the policy became “all fires out by10 am.”

Likely there were numerous small fires that subsequently occurred in our area, but those of note include the 1939 Panhandle Fire, northwest of Red Feather Lakes, which burned 1,060 acres; the 1944 Glendevey Fire that burned 900 acres; the 1952 Roosevelt Fire north of Red Feather Lakes that burned 2,000 acres; the 1958 Deadman Fire that burned 300 acres west of Red Feather Lakes; the 1971 Bull Mountain Fire that burned 3,100 acres in northwestern Larimer County; the 1978 Kilpecker Fire west of Red Feather Lakes that burned 1,112; and then in 2012 the High Park Fire that burned 87,284 acres west of Fort Collins, killed one person, and destroyed at least 248 homes. Many of us remember the High Park Fire, the smoke plumes, ashes and cinders falling around us and the firefighters from all over the country who came to combat that massive burn.  I can’t attest to the raspberries coming back, but I do know, as Norman Fry pointed out in 1893 “Nature, however, is a wonderful re-builder.”  As it will be again.  With time.

Norman Fry and the Poudre Canyon

Historic Larimer County has received permission to share a video on Norman Fry and his life in the Poudre Canyon. Here’s Sue Schneider, one of our board members, to introduce this 40-minute film.

Welcome to Norman Fry Country!  Watching this video you will learn all about Norman Fry, who came to the upper Poudre Canyon in 1889 at the age of 17.  I was lucky enough to grow up in the first place Norman Fry called home when he arrived in America.  My family acquired the property, “Pinehurst” in 1893 when my great-great uncle, AW Scott purchased it in a tax sale.  It has remained in our family ever since, and now the Abbott Family Trust of Pinehurst maintains the property and works to preserve a small bit of history.


I would Ike to thank Tim Mikkelsen, videographer, for his long hours filming and editing to make this video possible.  I’d also like to thank my lifetime friend, Sandra Lundt, for getting me involved in preserving and presenting the history of the upper Poudre Canyon and for her help in putting this video together.  Enjoy!

History of the Stewart Toll Road

This cabin is believed to be the original toll booth for the Stewart Toll Road
at the base of Pingree Hill.

Before Highway 14 (the Cache La Poudre and North Park Scenic ByWay) was completed through the Poudre Canyon in 1920, the only way to get to the upper Poudre Canyon from Fort Collins was via Livermore. In the early 1860s, George Pingree built a cabin on the riverbank of the Cache La Poudre River. Mr. Pingree trapped beaver and hunted wild game and was allegedly responsible for cutting a trail through the timber and down the gulch to his cabin site. The trail was two and half miles long and boasted a descent of 1,100 feet.

In the late 1860s tie contractors and lumbermen widened the trail as well as the road up the Poudre Canyon, and in the 1870s S.B. Stewart further improved the descent to accommodate increased wagon traffic. In 1879, Stewart and others incorporated the Cache la Poudre and North Park Toll Road Company to build a wagon road from the base of Pingree Hill to North Park (which at that time was part of Larimer County). Stewart took on the task of widening the trails used by the tie cutters and had reached Chambers Lake when silver fever broke out in North Park. He proceeded to the top of Cameron Pass and created two branches, one to Lulu City and one to Gould and Teller City.

The original Stewart Toll Road passing in front (north) of the historic Kinikinik Ranch.

The May 31, 1881 Fort Collins Courier reported “That the people of Collins have this splendid mountain road to the mines, is due to the energy of Mr. Stewart. With rare pluck, and under the most adverse circumstances, Mr. Stewart carried this work through to a successful termination.”

He built the Rustic Hotel in 1881 to service the toll road and proceeded to charge anyone using the road. The small (private) cabin on the northwest corner of Highway 14 and County Road 69 (known as the Pingree Hill road to locals) is thought to have been the toll house for the road.

Mr. Stewart charged $2.00 for each vehicle drawn by a horse, mule or oxen; loose stock was .40 cents a head and sheep were .20 cents a head. The toll was dropped in 1902 when the road became public.

With the steep descent down Pingree Hill, the road could be treacherous.  In 1911 a new route was surveyed that created a gentler grade on the mountainside above the gulch, and the new route was completed by a crew of convicts in 1912. During this time there was much disagreement between Loveland and Fort Collins concerning their pet road projects — the Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Poudre Canyon Road. Politics won out and the convicts were sent to the Fall River Road, but when the snow got too deep they were moved back to the lower Canyon in February 2013.

The road was finally completed through the Canyon to Rustic in October 1920. It was not until 1979 that Highway 14 (many portions of which were the former Stewart Toll Road) was finally paved all the way to North Park and opened year round. Almost 100 years after the Stewart Toll Road was opened, the Highway was finally modernized!

Author and photographer: Sue Schneider, whose family owns a historic cabin in the Poudre Canyon. Sue is also a member of the board of Historic Larimer County.

This article first appeared in the Historic Larimer County newsletter from September 12, 2018