How Did Rocky Mountain National Park Get Its Name?


Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses more than 415 square miles of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Early inhabitants and explorers gave this mountain range its name more than two centuries ago.

First Reference

  • In 1716 the governor of York Factory, John Knight, wrote in his diary about the Rockies. According to, Indians told Knight that to the west there were mountains so high, the tops of them were hard to see without clear weather.

Montaignes de Roche

  • The first time these mountains were referred to as "Rocky Mountains" was in 1753 in Legardeur St. Pierre's journal. In the journal, St. Pierre referred to the mountains as "Montaignes de Roche."

Cree Indians

  • The Cree Indians, who inhabited Canada, the Dakotas and Minnesota, also inhabited the prairies east of the Rocky Mountains. From the prairies, the Cree could see a large rocky mass, which they called "as-sin-wati." Translated, this means Rocky Mountains.

Rufus Sage

  • In 1843, mountain man Rufus Sage wrote about "lofty ledges" of rock that went through the clouds. This was the first account of the Rockies that reached easterners.

Becoming a National Park

  • Rocky Mountain National Park became a national park in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson declared Rocky Mountain National Park the tenth national park in the United States.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Beverly
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