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Pikes Peak history on display at Pioneer Museum

COLORADO SPRINGS -- Zebulon Pike's expedition into Colorado used sextants, compasses, spyglasses and maps like those shown here to determine their position. Other items on display at the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs include cooking utensils, rifles and bearskin rugs. Admission is free, although the museum accepts donations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

COLORADO SPRINGS -- Zebulon Pike's expedition into Colorado used sextants, compasses, spyglasses and maps like those shown here to determine their position. Other items on display at the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs include cooking utensils, rifles and bearskin rugs. Admission is free, although the museum accepts donations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The Pioneer Museum in downtown Colorado Springs has three exhibits commemorating the bicentennial of Zebulon Pike’s expedition to Colorado and the mountain that bears his name. 

The Pike expedition followed the Arkansas River through most of Kansas and into Colorado in November 1806. The expedition stretched through modern-day Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, where Spanish forces arrested Pike and his crew. The trek continued south through parts of Mexico before the Spanish authorities released Pike. He returned through Texas to end his journey in Louisiana. 

One of the exhibits at the museum features the history and artifacts from the Pike expedition. Another, titled “Looming Large: The artistic legacy of Pikes Peak,” showcases paintings of  the famous fourteener. The third, “Marketing the Mountain: Pikes Peak in the popular imagination,” features advertising campaigns and quotes from people who came to the Colorado Springs area to see the mountain. 

Explorers, and later the U.S. Geological Service, measured the mountain’s altitude—which became more accurate as technology advanced. Pike recorded the mountain’s altitude as 18,851 feet and claimed, “No one, given the conditions and our equipment, would be able to climb Pikes Peak.” In 1820, the Stephen Long expedition overcorrected Pikes Peak’s altitude to 11,507 feet. Readings between 1875 and 1988 refined the measurement, with 14,110 feet most commonly used at the time; however, the National Geodetic Survey found in 1988 that the mountain’s altitude is 14,115 feet. 

The mountain has attracted visitors from as far away as the Philippines and South Korea. Some historical visitors’ quotes are below: 

“(Travelers) see the noble mountain towering in great isolation above the surrounding summits, snow-covered while all the rest are bare, the central figure in a splendid panorama of barren pinnacles, gloomy canyons, sunny foothills and sublime forests,” B.D. Dorr wrote July 18, 1872. 

“I wish everyone at home could see this view,” Rose Kingsley wrote in 1874. “No descriptions or photographs can do it justice; and as for drawing it—who can do that?”

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