The National Park Service has been authorized by Congress and President Trump to begin a feasibility study as a first step leading toward an official designation of the early 1800s explorations of the Zebulon Pike Expedition as a National Historic Trail.
An intrepid expedition led by young Lt. Zebulon Pike earned a place in the history of the western expansion of the United States beyond the Mississippi River. Following President Jefferson’s acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and as the Lewis and Clark Expedition set out to track the headwaters of the Missouri River, Pike and his party of 20 men explored, first the upper Mississippi River, and then lands and rivers of the Southwest portion of the Louisiana Purchase.
The 1805-6 exploration of the upper Mississippi River included the river borders of Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to the headwaters of the Mississippi, while the more ambitious 1806-7 Southwest Route included pressing into the heartland of the wild territories of the southwest and into Mexico. The party’s adventures and travails were carefully recorded in Pike’s Journals which have guided the non-profit Pike National Historic Trail Association’s tracking the original route, leading to current maps along modern roads and trails that follow the group’s travels, allowing for both auto and hiking/biking travelers to explore the same landscapes seen by the expedition.
The Pike National Historic Trail Association was formed in 2007 to help move the work of Pike into a more prominent place in popular understanding of the expansion of the West. While many local areas along the routes used by Pike and his men have erected monuments and memorials, the Association has been working to pull together the story and the importance of the Pike’s work for educators, students, adventurers and history buffs from all over the world.
The state legislators of Colorado have been at the forefront of recognition for the trail through that state and local, grassroots efforts to promote it have proven very successful. In Colorado, 15 of the 17 counties through which the trail passes have officially recognized the trail.