Colorado State Publications Blog

How Geology Helped Build the Moffat Road

Our library recently received a fascinating new document for our collection that will be of interest to historians researching Colorado’s railroads as well as to those interested in our state’s geology and mineral resources.

Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1918, a special committee of the Denver Civic and Commercial Association asked State Geologist Russell George to produce a report of the mineral resources that could be found in the Northwest Colorado region of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, known informally as the “Moffat Road.” The committee, led by Denver Tramway Company president William Gray Evans, was interested in “the extent and location of the deposits of coal, oil shales, hydrocarbons, and other minerals of economic value…to be used by [the] Committee to make clear the public advantage and public necessity for the completion of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad — the “Moffat Road” — and its main range tunnel.” In other words, Evans — one of the major promoters of the Moffat Tunnel after the 1911 death of its namesake, David Moffat — wanted to use this report as justification for the railroad and tunnel through the mountains, construction of which would be no easy task.

George and the Colorado Geological Survey provided Evans and his colleagues with a thorough description of the area’s resources, the most prominent being coal — the mining of which was one of the state’s major industries during this era. George’s narrative is bound together with three large foldout maps. One map shows the Road’s route and proposed tunnel location alongside existing (supposedly inadequate) rail lines. The second map details the area’s coal resources, and the third map points out locations of other mineral resources, including copper, molybdenum, tungsten, carnotite, gold, and oil and gas.
Evans and his colleagues were likely very pleased with the report, because George concluded that “the industrial value of many million dollars’ worth of useful mineral deposits depends largely upon the quick completion of the railroad enterprise, including the proposed tunnel through the main range.” However, it would be nearly a decade before the Moffat Tunnel finally opened in 1927. Evans didn’t live to see the tunnel’s completion; he died in 1924.

This document is an incredible primary source for anyone researching Colorado’s railroad history. Although it is not presently available online (the large size of the maps would make this difficult), anyone is welcome to come and view the document here in our library. Search our library’s online catalog for many more resources on Colorado’s history, geology, and transportation.

A D&SL train near Kremmling in 1928. Photo by Otto Perry courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The History of Colorado's Highways

Today we take for granted the fact that highways can take us pretty much anywhere we want to go.
But in the first half of the 20th century, that wasn’t the case. As automobiles grew in popularity, the need arose for a system of highways that could support ever-increasing numbers of vehicles. While the construction of highways and interstates has made our life much easier, they haven’t been without problems, whether it’s impact to the environment, or the socioeconomic consequences that occurred in neighborhoods split by highways, forever changing local dynamics.

If you’re researching the history of Colorado’s highway and interstate systems, our library has numerous resources, including historical documents, that tell the story of the transportation system that completely changed our landscapes and ways of life starting in the second half of the 20th century. Search our web catalog for resources. Some highlights from our collection include:

  • 100 Years of State Transportation History. Colorado Department of Transportation, 2010.
  • A “Before and After” Study of Effects of a Limited Access Highway Upon the Business Activity of By-Passed Communities and Upon the Land Value and Land Use. Colorado Department of Highways, 1958.
  • Colorado’s Highway Needs and Highway Financing. Colorado Highway Planning Committee, 1950.
  • Colorful Colorado (official state highway maps). 1942-1991 available online; print maps available 1954-present.
  • Commemorating the Opening of the Denver Valley Highway, November 23, 1958. Colorado Department of Highways, 1958.
  • Denver Metropolitan Area Transportation Study. Colorado Division of Highways, 1962.
  • Digest and Review of the Preliminary Report of the Colorado Highway Planning Committee. Colorado Highway Planning Committee, 1950
  • The High Road. Colorado Division of Highways, 1976.
  • The Highways of Colorado: Summary Report of the Colorado State Planning Commission. Works Progress Administration and Colorado State Planning Commission, 1937.
  • Highways to the Sky: A Context and History of Colorado’s Highway System. Colorado Historical Society and Colorado Department of Transportation, 2002.
  • Paths of Progress. Colorado Department of Highways, 1954.
  • Route Descriptions and Mileage Statistics of Colorado State Highways. Colorado Division of Highways, published annually 1955-1960.
  • Traffic Volumes on Urban Freeways in Colorado. Colorado Department of Highways, 1971.

Items without web links can be viewed in or checked out from our library or obtained through Prospector. We also have hundreds of documents pertaining to individual highways/interstates and geographic areas, environmental information, planning documents, research reports, and resources on the history of specific features like the Eisenhower Tunnel, Glenwood Canyon, and the Scenic Byways.

Finally, see also the Colorado Department of Transportation’s CDOT History webpage.

Colorado’s state highway system in 1951.

Top photo: The old San Juan County Road before the construction of the Million Dollar Highway. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Hayden Survey

For something a little different today, instead of profiling a historic document that has been digitized, I’m instead going to introduce you to a brand new digital publication — but one that sends the reader on a journey from the past to the present.’s Landscapes Revisited:  The Drawings of the Great Colorado Survey, by Thomas P. Huber, is an open-access publication from the University Press of Colorado.  There is no hard copy of this “book” — it is an online publication that uses digital imagery to capture the drawings of the Hayden Survey and compare them to the same Colorado landscapes today.  “This publication is neither meant to be a comprehensive history of Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden nor his survey,” writes the author.  “[It] is about place and how we look at it and how we are affected by it. I use the Hayden Survey as a departure point in describing Colorado past and Colorado present.”  Huber is a professor of geography at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

Hayden, a scientist and geologist as well as a military surgeon during the Civil War, had made extensive surveys of the landscapes of the West, including Yellowstone.  The Yellowstone expeditions were made famous in the paintings of Thomas Moran, who accompanied Hayden on his surveys. After Yellowstone became a National Park, Hayden switched his attention to Colorado, conducting extensive surveys from 1873 to 1877.

The Hayden expeditions resulted in numerous reports and documents, but among the most interesting materials are the drawings and illustrations, including many by Moran, that were made of Colorado’s landscapes.  In Huber’s publication, he reproduces these illustrations alongside present-day photographs of the same location.  For both old and new, the digital images can be enhanced to provide stunning visual detail on the selected landscapes.  The publication also includes an extensive bibliography for further reading on Hayden’s and other explorations of the West.


Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Highway Maps

What was it like to travel around Colorado before I-25, I-70, and the other major highways?  Colorado had a network of smaller roadways — which probably allowed visitors a more scenic view of the state than we have today!  The Colorado Department of Transportation has digitized a number of its old state maps, which have been cataloged and are available from our library.  The digitized maps go back to 1942.  Not only are these maps of roads and highways, but the full-color maps also give suggestions for points of interest along the routes.  The maps also contain mileage tables, information on National Parks, Monuments, and Forests, a list of mountain passes, and a list of the state’s highest peaks.  Some years also include topographical information.  Experience traveling in days gone by with these fun maps!

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Oil and Gas Fields of Colorado

Most Coloradans know that oil and gas production has skyrocketed in Colorado, but a 1975 resource from the Colorado Geological Survey illustrates the industry’s development visually and using statistics.  Oil and Gas Fields of Colorado includes two parts:  a map, and a book of statistical data.  You can see how much the industry has expanded by comparing the 1975 map to a current map courtesy of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  COGCC also has data files to compare with the 1975 statistics.

Oil and gas fields, 1975
Oil and gas fields today
Colorado State Publications Blog

GIS Maps and Data

The Colorado Demography Office offers a number of resources regarding population data.  Some of these have been explored previously in this blog. Today, however, I wanted to highlight their GIS maps and data, located on their State of Colorado: GIS Directory website.  This site gathers many of the Colorado state agencies’ GIS maps together in one place.

You can either view data by agency in the pull-down menu, or type a keyword search in the search box.  For example, if you type “population” in the search feature, you will get a list of GIS resources that includes both State of Colorado sites and external links that have been added by Demography Office staff.  Check out this helpful resource if you are searching for GIS data on a wide variety of topics including not only demographics, but natural resources, corrections, health, transportation, and more.
You can find more resources, such as thematic PDF maps, interactive maps, census data, and GIS shapefiles, at the Demography Office’s GIS Maps and Data website.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Oil and Gas in Colorado, 1925

Where was oil found in Colorado in the early days of the automobile?  How do different parts of the state compare in oil and gas production based on geological epochs?  A 1925 map (reprinted in 1984) from the Colorado Geological Survey answers these questions and more.  Although the early map did not use color, it instead used shading to indicate the various geological time periods (Tertiary, Cretaceous, Triassic/Jurassic, Paleozoic) and symbols to indicate oil fields, gas and oil seeps, anticlines, bitumen, deep water wells, and other relevant information.  This interesting look into the early years of oil and gas production has been digitized and is available online from our library.  Visit our web catalog for further resources.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Points of Interest

As you travel through Colorado, you will find numerous markers designating points of interest.  Some of these are historical, and others geological.

Historical – History Colorado (formerly the Colorado Historical Society) places and maintains point of interest markers in places where important historical events occurred around the state.  Our library recently acquired an interesting Historical Society publication done in 1972.  Entitled Point of Interest, it is a pictorial guide with stories, maps, photos, and drawings of historical sites, divided by region.  While the sites covered in the book can still be visited, of course, many new sites and markers have been added since then.  And the technology has changed, too — no longer do you need to flip through a guidebook.  History Colorado now offers a Historic Marker Database that you can access with your mobile device as you drive around the state, or view online as you plan your trip. 

Geological – Even before history was prehistory, and the changes in the earth over the eons can be easily seen from your car window as you drive through Colorado.  The Colorado Geological Survey provides an interactive map for finding points of geological interest, or POGIs, such as mines, fossils, caves, and rock formations.  Click on a POGI on the map to see photos and read an explanation of the POGI’s geological significance.  You can also read about the POGI program in the Spring 2006 issue of RockTalk, available from our library.

Points of interest can be fun ways to keep the kiddos entertained during road trips, or for anyone to learn about the special places that make Colorado what it is.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Find Your Legislators

It’s mid-way through the Session.  Do you know who your Legislator is? 

If not, can help.  Simply go to the Who is my Legislator? webpage and click on the link to the map resource.  Once there, you can zoom in on the map down to the block level.  Then choose whether you want to find the name of your State Senator, State Representative, or U.S. Representative.  You can also compare your address with data from 2002 to find out if your area changed representation during redistricting, which occurs every 10 years.  The map will show you the name of your current Legislator, the District number, and a link to the Legislator’s homepage which includes contact information, party affiliation, photograph, committees, and other information.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Demography Map Gallery

The Colorado State Demography Office has added a new Map Gallery to their website.  The gallery features maps with census information, poverty data, household income, state-to-state migration, and more.  The maps are interactive and customizable.  The gallery also includes several apps which, according to the Demography Office,

  • “Compare 2010 Census vs 2000 Census with a simple “swipe” interface
  • View individual subject webmaps for Poverty and Income
  • Access data visualizations for County and State Migration, as well as an animation of Colorado County Population over time
  • An easy to understand guide to get you started
  • And more!”
Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Geology for Tourists

Are you taking a road trip through Colorado this summer?  Looking for something to do with out-of-town guests?  Or just interested in our state’s natural history?  Then check out the Tourist Guide to Colorado Geology from our library.  Published by the Colorado Geological Survey, the Tourist Guide is an easy-to-read guide to discovering some of our state’s most interesting natural wonders.  The guide is full of very accessible maps including
  • Generalized geologic map of Colorado
  • Topography and physiography of Colorado
  • Colorado’s mineral and energy resources
  • Distribution of rocks and deposits in Colorado
  • Points of geologic interest
  • Earthquakes and young faults of Colorado
  • Colorado State Parks
  • Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway (1915)
  • Colorado’s geologic time scale
  • Official Colorado geologic symbols
  • Geologic structure

If you can’t make it to see the sights in person, you can always take an armchair tour of Colorado’s geology with the book Messages in Stone:  Colorado’s Colorful Geology, also available for checkout from our library.  Finally, visit our web catalog for even more resources, including online publications.

Image courtesy Colorado Geological Survey

Colorado State Publications Blog

Hayden Expedition

The famous Hayden Expedition of 1871, led by geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, was instrumental in surveying and mapping what would become Yellowstone National Park the following year.  The survey expedition, which took about four months over the summer of 1871, was funded by Congress.  Six years later, in 1877, Hayden and his team surveyed Colorado and Utah.  The Colorado Geological Survey has digitized several of Hayden’s geologic maps from the 1877 expedition, which you can find online by clicking here.  Hayden’s maps are an important part of the study of the geology of the West, and the town of Hayden in western Colorado’s Yampa Valley has been named for him.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Historical Maps

The Colorado State Archives features a website of historical maps of Colorado and the U.S. Here you can view an 1895 map of Colorado, historic maps of Colorado cities and towns, and much more. Also on this site you can find a 1795 map of the “Interior Parts of North America,” an 1855 map of the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico, and maps of discovery, state admissions, and territorial acquisitions. There are also several maps of transportation routes, including stage routes, railroad maps, and stops on the Overland Trail. This is a fascinating website for learning about what Colorado and the West looked like over a century ago.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Geology Map for Tourists

If you’re taking a road trip through Colorado this summer, you might want to check out the Colorado Geological Survey’s Tourist Guide to Colorado Geology, brand new this year. This fun and easy-to-use map instructs tourists and visitors on the various elements of the geology of Colorado. You can learn the names and ages of different rocks and formations, as well as information on the prehistory of the area. Using this map you can also find State Parks and points of geological interest. The map might also be a helpful way to amuse the kiddies in the backseat! (“hey Junior, why don’t you count how many quartzite deposits you can spot before we stop for lunch…”) You can also find other tourist-related geological resources from the Survey, including their book Messages in Stone as well as their Field Trip Guide series, available from our library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Demographic Information Maps

The Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs’ Demography Section has added a new page to their website, the Thematic Map Gallery. This very interesting site offers a variety of demographic maps. These include historical maps illustrating population back to 1880 as well as “night sky maps” that illustrate the clusters of light at nighttime that indicate areas of greater or lesser population. There are also a variety of maps based on information from the 2000 census, and maps forecasting population change all the way to 2030.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado's Hot Spots

Do you know where the hottest spot in Colorado is? According to the Colorado Geological Survey, the hottest spot in the state isn’t Denver, Aspen, or Vail but a large area between Cortez and Montrose, Colorado. To find out other hot spots in Colorado check out the Heat Flow map on the Colorado Geological Survey website. Other interesting maps found on “Statewide Maps of Colorado” include: Digital elevation model — Digital elevation model from the east — Distribution of rocks by age — Earthquake map –Earthquake map server — Fourteeners (14,000 ft. Peaks) — General interest — Geology — Glaciers in CO during the last ice age — Gravity — Late Cenozoic fault and fold database — Magnetics — Major rivers in CO — Major tectonic & geographic features — Mines — Physiographic provinces — Shaded relief map.
All the maps are interesting, informative, and colorful. Check them out for a unique and fun experience with some of the lessor known aspects of Colorado.