The human history of the Garden of the Gods commences many centuries before our present time. Stone hearths and fire rings found in the Garden dating over 3000 years ago indicate the presence of early inhabitants, According to Ute traditions, their people have always lived in this area, not having any stories of migration from elsewhere. The Utes were known to winter in the Garden of the Gods prior to removal to reservations in southwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah.
How the Park was Named
Modern history of the Garden begins in 1858 when gold was discovered along the Front Range and in South Park, northwest of Colorado Springs. Thousands of prospectors and settlers flocked to the area, including a party from Lawrence, Kansas, who camped along the stream known as Camp Creek, and carved their names on the sandstone boulder we call “Signature Rock.” In 1859, the Garden was named by two surveyors who were laying out the town of Colorado City, south of the Park. As they were riding their horses through the Garden, Malancthon Beach remarked the place would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” Rufus Cable replied, “Beer Garden! Why it is a place fit for the gods to assemble. We will call it “Garden of the Gods.”
A City Park
The city of Colorado Springs was founded in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, who built his home in Queens Canyon, just north of the Park. In 1879, General Palmer talked a fellow railroad man, Charles Elliot Perkins, into buying 240 acres of the Central Garden for a summer home. Perkins later added another 240 acres. However, he never built on the land but always kept it open to the public. It became Mr. Perkins wish to give the land to the city of Colorado Springs for a park, but he died before making these wishes know in a will. However, his 6 children honored his wishes, and on Christmas Day of 1909 the 480 acres were conveyed to the city with the provision it would always remain free to the public. Later acquisitions by the city brought the total park size to 1,367 acres.
With thousands of visitors exacting a toll on the Park’s environment, attempts have been made throughout the years to preserve the beauty of its natural wonders. In the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of juniper trees in the Central Garden to control erosion. In the early 1990’s, members of the general public, including hikers, bikers, climbers, equestrians, scientists, Native Americans, and historians, worked together to develop a new master plan for the Park to insure its preservation. Commercial structures, such as the Chuckwagon Pavilion and the Hidden Inn were removed. The road through Gateway Rocks was replaced by a sidewalk, the paths in the Central Garden were paved, and a new Visitors Center opened on private land east of the Park.
Today, we continue to wonder at the natural beauty of the Garden of the Gods as we share this National Natural Landmark with millions of visitors from around the world.