“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Sanford in Conejos County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)

Pike's Stockade

Pike's Stockade Marker image. Click for full size.
Photo by Tom Schwab, August 2008
1. Pike's Stockade Marker
Inscription.  Near here, on the banks of the Conejos River, Zebulon M. Pike built a log stockade in early February, 1807, and for the first time raised an American flag over what is now Colorado. Pike's trek of 1806-07 was the second official United States expedition into the lands of the Louisiana Purchase, acquired in 1803. Exploring the southern region of the new territory, Pike crossed into the San Luis Valley in January, 1807. On February 26, at the stockade, he and his men were arrested by Spanish dragoons for illegally entering New Spain. They were escorted to Santa Fe where they arrived on April 2, 1807, for questioning. They were detained for a few months in Chihuahua after which they were able to return to the States, crossing the Rio Grande River on June 1. The stockade was reconstructed by the Colorado Historical Society in 1952.
Erected 1936 by the Colorado Historical Society. (Marker Number 43.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ExplorationLaw Enforcement
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Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Colorado - History Colorado, and the National Historic Landmarks series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1807.
Location. 37° 17.631′ N, 105° 48.631′ W. Marker is near Sanford, Colorado, in Conejos County. Marker is on County Road 24, ¾ mile south of County Road Y, on the right when traveling east. From U.S. Highway 285 in south-central Colorado's San Luis Valley, approximately 19.25 miles north of the Colorado/New Mexico state line, turn east at the southern edge of the town of La Jara onto County Road W. Go east 3.95 miles to where Road W ends at a "T" on the northeast edge of Sanford. Turn left here onto 10th Street (County Road 20) and go north 2 miles. Turn right onto County Road Y and go east 3.95 miles to where Road Y ends at a "T". Stockade gate is on the south. Turn right through gate onto County Road 24 and go south for .25 miles, then east for .5 miles to stockade location. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sanford CO 81151, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. "The Manassa Mauler" (approx. 10.8 miles away); Alamosa Depot (approx. 12.3 miles away); American National Bank Building
Pike's Stockade Marker image. Click for full size.
Photo by Tom Schwab, Aug 2008
2. Pike's Stockade Marker
(approx. 12.4 miles away); Emperius Building (approx. 12.4 miles away); American Legion Building (approx. 12½ miles away); First Baptist Church (approx. 12½ miles away); All Aboard for Alamosa! (approx. 12½ miles away); Denver & Rio Grande Western Locomotive No. 169 (approx. 12½ miles away).
More about this marker. Pike's Stockade was designated as a National Historical Landmark on July 4, 1961.
Statement of Significance::
Zebulon Pike raised the American flag over Spanish soil at the stockade after leading the second official U.S. expedition into the Louisiana Territory in 1807. It was the first major expedition into the Southwest.
Regarding Pike's Stockade. Zebulon Pike was ordered by President Thomas Jefferson to follow the Arkansas River up to its headwaters, then head south to find the headwaters of the Red River and follow it downsteam back to Missouri. He was to establish good relations with the Indian tribes of the region and encourage them to trade with the U.S., and to explore the southern region of the Louisiana purchase. Many historians today believe that his main mission was secretly espionage: to gather as
Pike's Stockade image. Click for full size.
Photo by Tom Schwab, Aug 2008
3. Pike's Stockade
much information as he could about the Spanish territory and its strength. With 20 soldiers, a physician, and an interpreter, Pike set out July 15, 1806, from Fort Bellefontaine in Missouri. The soldiers brought only summer uniforms because Pike mistakenly believed they would encounter no cold weather. After spending some time with Indian tribes encountered along the way, they followed the Arkansas River upstream, arriving at the site of present-day Pueblo, Colorado on November 23, 1806. From here he spotted the tall peak to the northwest which today bears his name. Pike with three of his men attempted to reach the peak's summit, but gave up after two days without food in waist-deep snow. Pike's men pressed on towards the headwaters, sometimes through howling blizzards, into what he called the "Mexican Mountains" (Colorado's Front Range and the Sangre de Cristo mountains). Pike and his men crossed a pass near today's Great Sand Dunes National Park and found the headwaters of the Rio Grande, which they mistakenly thought was the Red River. The expedition was in real trouble, being in the 7,500-ft. high San Luis Valley surrounded by 14,000-ft. mountains in the dead of winter, with little food, clothing, or supplies. Several of Pike's men lost toes to frostbite, and they had no blankets left because these had been cut up for socks. After following the Conejos River downstream about
Zebulon Pike image. Click for full size.
Internet Archive
4. Zebulon Pike
from The Biographical Dictionary of America, 1906. by Rossiter Johnson.
60 miles, the expedition halted February 1, 1807 near some warm springs, and built a small stockade 36 feet square. Here Pike and his men were captured by Spanish Dragoons on February 26th, 1807. The Spaniards took him south along the Rio Grande to Santa Fé, where Pike was interrogated by the Governor. Pike said that he didn’t know he was on Spanish Territory. He was then taken to Chihuahua where he appeared before the Commandant General Salcedo. Pike was housed with Juan Pedro Walker, a cartographer, who also acted as an interpreter and as a transcriber/translator for Pike's confiscated documents. While with Walker, Pike had access to various maps of the southwest and learned of Mexican discontent with Spanish rule. Pike and his men were released, under protest, to the United States and crossed the Louisiana border on July 1, 1807.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Zebulon Pike and the Search for the Source of the Red River. (Submitted on September 24, 2009.)
2. Zebulon Pike. Wikipedia article (Submitted on September 24, 2009.) 

3. Fort Garland Museum/Pike's Stockade. Colorado Historical Society (Submitted on September 24, 2009.) 
Additional commentary.
1. Pike's Stockade
Elevation is 7,572 feet. There
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are restrooms at the site but it is not staffed. The gate is open 9 am-5 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The site is sometimes closed due to flooding, so check with the Fort Garland Museum before visiting, and don't enter the site if the gate is closed. The site attracts fewer visitors than its historic importance warrants, and the property is subject to vandalism due to its isolation. Watch out for rattlesnakes in the tall grass. Mosquitos are abundant in the willow swamps on the banks of the Conejos River, so bring repellent. Birdwatchers like to come here to see the Southwest Willow Flycatcher.
    — Submitted September 26, 2009.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 25, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 24, 2009. This page has been viewed 3,471 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on September 25, 2009.   2, 3. submitted on September 24, 2009.   4. submitted on September 8, 2018, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide area photo of marker and its surrounding. • Text and close-up photo of plaques located on monument in photo #2. • Can you help?

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Apr. 17, 2024