Enos Mills: Father of Rocky Mountain National Park

When: 1870-1922

Where: Estes Park, CO

enosmillsWhy Important: Responsible for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park

Biography

Born in Kansas, Enos Mills left home at age 14 and traveled to Estes Park, Colorado, where some of his relatives lived. He fell in love with the mountains and in Colorado found his new home. For the next twenty years he made his living as a mountain guide and supplemented his income by working at local mines and ranches during seasons where there were not many tourists.

In 1902, Mills purchased the Longs Peak Inn in Estes Park, which he operated until his death in 1922. Mills wanted the Longs Peak Inn to reflect the quiet tranquility of nature, so he did not allow any music or dancing in his hotel. Mills loved Longs Peak, the mountain his hotel was named for, and had climbed it over 300 times.

Longs_Peak_from_Bear_Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park circa 1908-1920
(credit: Denver Public Library)

As he grew older, Mills quit his mining and ranching jobs, which often took him far from Estes Park, and began spending most of his time there, where he wrote books[footnote]“Enos A. Mills Issues New Book on ‘Waiting in the Wilderness.'”Fort Collins Courier, April 25, 1921. CHNC[/footnote] and articles promoting the area as a tourist destination. Soon Mills began to promote the idea of making the area around Estes Park into a National Park, especially since Estes Park had begun to draw more and more tourists with the opening of the Stanley Hotel. Mills feared the hotel would attract other commercial development[footnote]“Grand Lake Auto Road.” Middle Park Times, April 5, 1912. CHNC[/footnote] and sought to preserve the area as a National Park. Mills and others worked hard to determine the boundaries of the proposed park and to lobby Congress to designate the area. Finally, in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was officially designated.[footnote]“Rocky Mountain National Park is Dedicated.” Daily Journal, August 28, 1915. CHNC[/footnote]

At the age of 48, in 1918, Mills married Esther Burnell, who had come from Ohio as a tourist in Estes Park. The couple had one child, a daughter, Edna. Just four years after his marriage, Enos Mills died of influenza at the age of 52.[footnote]“Death of Enos A. Mills.” Longmont Ledger, September 22, 1922.CHNC[/footnote] Today, the Estes Park cabin in which he lived for many years has become a museum.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1870 to Jan. 1, 1922

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