Note: The Landmark Designation Committee approved this application at its meeting in May. The Landmark Program allows for the designation of significant natural features; this is the first time a natural site or object has been so designated in Jefferson County.
The Landmark Designation Committee received a landmark nomination for the Ute Council Tree, located on Jeffco Open Space property at Alameda Pkwy and the hogback (Dinosaur Ridge); the nomination was approved by the Board of County Commissioners on April 30th. The area was formerly part of the Rooney Ranch. This large ponderosa pine tree has long been remembered as a place where original settler Alex Rooney (I) met with Colorow and other Utes and also reportedly negotiated peace between the Utes and neighboring Arapahoes. In later decades, the Red Rocks Lions Club and other local groups held gatherings on a stone patio and picnic area that was built by the Rooney Family next to the tree. During this period, the tree was also known as the Lighted Tree.
The nomination was proposed by historian Dr. Beth Simmons, author of a book on the Rooney Family. She also encouraged Open Space staff to investigate the age of the tree. A partial core taken recently suggests the tree is at least 400 years old, and possibly much older, and thus was definitely alive during the lifetime of Chief Colorow (approximately 1813 to 1888*). The tree appears to be healthy, although part of the interior is hollow.
Golden historian Richard Gardner remarked that the tree could be worthy of landmark listing on the basis of its more recent cultural uses by latter-day residents of the area, as well as its pre-settlement history of use by local tribes. The Committee noted that the landmark designation includes the cultural site as a whole, rather than the tree alone.
* See “Chief Colorow Dead,” The Day newspaper, Dec. 13, 1888. He was reported to be 75 years old.
Photos by Clare Marshall, courtesy Friends of Dinosaur Ridge.