Colorado State People
Updated October 2013
Picture a secluded valley at the foot of snowcapped mountains. Green pine trees cast a refreshing fragrance, and the early summer roar of mountain runoff in the Poudre River competes with the sounds of wind and chirping birds.
Just over 50 miles west of Fort Collins lies a beautiful mountain valley called Pingree Park. Within this valley is Colorado State University's Pingree Park Campus and Conference Center. The 1,200-acre campus is within sight of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, and Roosevelt National Forest.
At an altitude of 9,000 feet, Pingree Park provides cool summer days perfect for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Trails leaving from the central campus invite visitors to a leisurely 45-minute walk up to Denny's Point or a rigorous all-day climb up Stormy Peaks.
Since the summer of 1916, Pingree Park has been a field site for Colorado State University natural resources students. In the early years, students slept and ate in what is now called the Old Classroom next to the dining hall. Summer sessions lasted 10 weeks, requiring students to study at night using candles or lights powered by the camp’s electric generator.
Today, the demanding program is four weeks long and allows students many hands-on outdoor opportunities. Colorado State is one of the few universities in the nation to offer a field program in a setting like Pingree Park.
Eco-Week is a unique opportunity for area elementary school students to experience nature in a remote mountain setting. During their three-day/two-night stay, 5th and 6th grade student study tree identification, fire ecology, map and compass use, geology, life zones, and ecosystem interaction. Some schools do the Challenge Ropes Course. A hike to the alpine is a highlight on the second day.
George W. Pingree is generally acknowledged as the founder of Pingree Park. Born in Maine, Pingree followed the gold rush west, and in the 1860s, he settled in the Rustic region of the Cache la Poudre River in northern Colorado.
In response to the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyo., and the need for railroad ties made from local timber, logger George Pingree contracted with the railroad. The first tie camp was established in the Pingree area in early 1868. Thirty to 40 tie hacks worked that summer and winter cutting and piling ties along the banks of the Little South Poudre River.
In the spring of 1869, the ties were floated down river to a point near LaPorte, where they were hauled by oxen-pulled wagons to Tie Siding, Wyo. The tie camp at Pingree Park, a name given to the valley the first winter, was occupied during three seasons. By the fall of 1870, the local demand for railroad ties had been filled, and the tie camps closed.
In 1912, Congress provided National Forest land to what is now Colorado State University for the formation of the Pingree Park campus. The first forestry school summer camp was held at Pingree Park in 1917.
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