Zebulon Pike's "sand-hills"

Zebulon Pike's "sand-hills" (HM1D40)

Location: Herndon, CO 81146 Alamosa County
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 43.844', W 105° 30.833'

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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

On January 28, 1807, Lt. Zebulon Pike and his small band of tattered, hungry, foot-sore soldiers camped near here, having just crossed this snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Under orders from General James Wilkinson to explore the southwestern boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase and locate the Arkansas and Red Rivers, Lt. Pike became the first person known to describe the Great Sand Dunes in writing.

Jan. 27th. We marched, determined to cross the mountains ... After a bad day's march through snows, in some places three feet deep, we struck on a brook which led west. This I followed down, and shortly came to a small stream (Sand Creek), running west, which we hailed with fervency as the waters of Red river. Saw some sign of elk. Distance 14 miles.

Jan 28th. Followed down the ravine ... After marching some miles, we discovered through the lengthy vista, at a distance, another chain of mountains; and nearer by, at the foot of the White (Sangre de Cristo) mountains which we were then descending, sandy hills.

We marched on the outlet of the mountains, left the sandy desert to our right, and kept down between it and the largest hills of sand, and with my glass could discover a large river (the Rio Grande) flowing ... through the plain. I returned to camp with news of my discovery. The sand-hills extended up and down the foot of the White (Sangre de Cristo) mountains about 15 miles, and appeared to be about 5 miles in width. Their appearance was exactly that of the sea in a storm, except as to color, not the least sign of vegetation existing thereon. Distance 15 miles.

- Lt. Zebulon Pike, January 28, 1807

(Lower Right Drawing Caption)
Pike's journey took an unexpected turn a few days after his visit to the dunes. While camped along the Rio Grande which he mistook for the Red River, he was contacted by Spanish soldiers who informed him he was trespassing on Spanish territory. He and his men were escorted to Chihuahua, Mexico, and later returned to Louisiana.
HM NumberHM1D40
Placed ByNational Park Service
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, September 13th, 2014 at 10:26am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13S E 454717 N 4176064
Decimal Degrees37.73073333, -105.51388333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 43.844', W 105° 30.833'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 43' 50.64" N, 105° 30' 49.98" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)719
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 11965-11985 Unnamed Road, Herndon CO 81146, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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