A Brief History of Lory State Park
Pre-Historic TimesSpear points, projectile points, knives, scrapers, drills, axes, manos, and arrow shaft straighteners have been found in and around the area of Lory State Park. These lithic materials range in age from the Paleo period (9,500 BC) to the late Ceramic period (around 1850 AD).
A Buffer ZoneBy the mid-1800s, several successive groups of American Indians had utilized northeastern Colorado for hunting and camping. During the early 1700s, incoming Comanche drove the Apaches south. During the 1800s, the Comanche were pressed southward by incoming Arapaho and Cheyenne. The Sioux also used northeastern Colorado as hunting grounds during the mid-1800s. The Ute were a mobile society of hunters who eventually occupied most of the western slope and controlled the mountain passes. The land in Lory State Park was believed to have been a buffer zone where bison were hunted and choke cherries and plums were gathered by both the Plains Tribes and Ute.
Trappers and TradersDuring the early 1800’s French-Canadian trappers frequented the present day area of Bellvue, just north of the park, along the Cache la Poudre River. Antoine Janis, who staked a squatter’s claim in 1844 along the Poudre River northeast of Lory, is the first known permanent white settler in Colorado north of the Arkansas River. In 1859 a company of French Canadian families came to the area recognizing the significance of the movement of people into the region in terms of its future development. The company created a settlement named Colona. Colona was renamed LaPorte in 1862 and made the headquarters of the Mountain Division of the Overland Stage Route. One route to the gold fields was to follow the Oregon Trail to Fort Laramie and then descend southward along the Cherokee Trail east of the mountains toward Denver. Along this route, the gold seekers traveled through the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson river valleys. Many who tired of mining remembered these valleys as attractive places for settlement.
Fort CollinsPioneers started to settle in Pleasant Valley (Bellvue south through the valley now under Horsetooth Reservoir) in the 1860’s and 1870’s. As gold seekers and immigrants moved westward in increasing numbers, the Indian tribes of northern Colorado found their traditional way of life disintegrating. The 1860s were a time of great conflict on the plains. Tensions increased as thousands of travelers passed through native lands along emigrant trails. While the trappers and hunters had co-existed with the Native Americans, the prevailing sentiment of the new settlers was that the march of civilization should continue west. In July 1862, a military camp was built near LaPorte to protect the Overland Stage Route. After the first Camp Collins was destroyed by a summer flood in 1864, President Lincoln approved land be set aside for the military reservation to be known as Fort Collins built in present day “Old Town” Fort Collins. The post was abandoned three years later in 1867 and opened to settlement in 1872.
Quarries and RailroadsThe first sandstone quarries were developed at Stout and Bellvue in the early 1870’s. By 1881, the Union Pacific and Colorado Central Railroads had rail running from the local quarries all the way to Denver, Greeley, Cheyenne, and Omaha. Stout’s sandstone was used for construction in several towns including Fort Collins, Denver and Chicago. During the 1890’s, economic conditions closed several of the areas quarries. Evidence of quarrying can still be seen in all of the coves of Lory State Park.
The Howard Family Early settlers generally came to the area for mining interests, but many who stayed turned to agriculture and stock raising. In 1891, a man named John Kimmons and his wife homesteaded 160 acres in a grassy glade behind a red hogback south of Bellvue. In 1897, they traded their homestead for land in North Park owned by the Howard family. For the Howards, the foothills area meant the winters were less harsh and school was closer for their children to attend. During the next few decades, the Howards bought neighboring homesteads to increase their property from 160 acres to 3,600 acres. Three generations of the Howard family grew up on the land that is now Lory State Park. They irrigated with water that ran off the gulches in early spring, grew hay, branded and raised cattle, put up fences, and harvested timber. In 1963, the then elderly sons of John Howard, Charlie and Arthur, decided to sell their property since Arthur’s children couldn’t see trying to make a living on the ranch. They sold their land to two real estate developers and some of the land became the Soldier Canyon Estates above the park entrance. In 1967, the remaining 2, 600 acres was sold to the State of Colorado to become a park. The Howard family house was located at the present site of the Homestead Picnic Area. Three cedar trees and some sandstone slabs mark the house’s location.
Horsetooth ReservoirIn 1937, construction of the Horsetooth Reservoir dams began as part of the Big Thompson Project to bring western slope water to Colorado’s developing Front Range. Construction was completed in 1949 and the reservoir began to fill in 1951, reaching full capacity by 1956. The Howard’s land was not affected, although their drive to Fort Collins became longer once the Spring Canyon dam blocked the original road to town. The town of Stout, its railroad spur, and a few homesteads, were abandoned in 1949 to make way for the inundation of the valley.
Becoming Lory State ParkOn May 7, 1975, the park was named Lory State Park in honor of Dr. Charles A. Lory, an early settler in the area and president of Colorado Agricultural College, (CSU) from 1909 to 1940. Jimmy Griffis was the first manager of Lory State Park and responsible for many of the park’s recreational features still in use today.
A Great Place to PlayToday, Lory State Park provides a place to hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride on over 20 miles of trails just minutes from Fort Collins. The unique rock outcroppings, gulches, open meadows, and ponderosa pine forests create wonderful picnicking and wildlife watching opportunities.