Imagine Northeast Iowa

A blogging extravaganza by, for, & about Northeast Iowa.

Pikes Peak: Iowa or Colorado?
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Pikes Peak: Iowa or Colorado?

When I was a child, my family took a vacation out west. As part of our trip, we swung through the state of Colorado, where my parents informed me we’d be taking a train to the tip top of Pikes Peak. I was immediately confused. As a young child growing up in McGregor, IA, I knew Pikes Peak to be the beautiful spot overlooking the Mississippi River just minutes from my home. But now they were telling me there was a mountain, which seemed to be a much hotter tourist spot, with the same name?!

I remember my dad telling the tour guide that we lived by “the real Pikes Peak.” I also remember the guide laughing right in his face. To this day, the few people from Colorado that I’ve talked to claim their peak as the most authentic. So what are the real facts about NE Iowa’s Pikes Peak vs. “theirs?”

The truth is, Zebulon Pike found our peak before he traveled to Colorado. In 1805, after the Louisiana Purchase, the government sent Pike to explore the Mississippi valley and select locations suitable for military posts. Pike thought the point would be an excellent location for a fort. The government agreed on the general vicinity, but selected the prairie around Prairie du Chien for the fort instead.

In the summer of 1806, Pike and his men left on a four month expedition that lead them to Colorado, where Pike saw what he called “a small blue cloud” which was later revealed as a towering mountain. Pike and his men had not expected their expedition to last as long as it had, so by the time they reached the mountain the weather had turned very cold. And when Pike finally climbed to the base of the mountain, wearing only summer clothes, he decided they would have to leave the area without reaching the summit of his newly discovered mountain. Much later, another man did climb to the top of Pikes Peak, but it was still named after the explorer who first discovered the mountain. 

So now you know. Both spots were named after Zebulon Pike, but he only ever reached the peak of one of them.  (Which was a much easier task considering the peak in Iowa sits at 994 feet, while Colorado’s peak reaches 14,115 feet into the sky.)

All facts aside, it’s really not about whose peak is better or whose peak is the “real” Pikes Peak. Iowa’s Pikes Peak is visited and enjoyed by hundreds of people every year and, if you ask me, the residents of McGregor and the rest of Northeast Iowa are proud to call it our own.

  1. Mamabear
    Great post! I love all these stories about the history of these beautiful and interesting places. You might enjoy my post, telling the story about another interesting person of yore, Aase Haugen, and the amazing thing she did in founding the first nursing home west of the Mississippi, which is a unique old place in the country in NE IA

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