Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

USA Rocky Mountain Region

With majestic peaks, crystal-clear lakes and rolling meadows that have been shaped by millions of years of geological activity, the Rocky Mountain region is an area of spectacular natural beauty. Historically, the Rocky Mountain region was home to a number of Native American tribes, including the Ute, Navajo and Shoshone. More recently, the region was instrumental in the development of the American West, with the California Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad bringing many European settlers to the area. The Rocky Mountain region is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The area’s unique blend of natural and historical attractions captivates people of all ages and backgrounds.

The interior of the 19th century Bent's Old Fort in southeastern Colorado.


With the Rocky Mountains in the west and flat open plains in the east, Colorado is a geographically diverse state. At the time of European colonisation it was home to such indigenous groups as the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne, while earlier indigenous communities left behind archaeological sites such as the Ancestral Pueblo Cliff Dwellings. By the early 19th century, France claimed the area as its territory, selling it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. A gold rush saw substantial European settlement in the mid-19th century and in 1876 Colorado became a state. In that decade, most of the indigenous peoples in the area were forcibly relocated to reservations outside Colorado.
The rusting remains of a mineral dredge in the Yankee Fort River, Idaho.


The mountainous state of Idaho is a place of outstanding natural beauty, being one of the three states across which the Yellowstone National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is spread. At the time of European contact, Idaho was home to indigenous groups like the Kutenai, the Nez Percé, the Northern Paiute, and the Shoshone. Idaho is a Shoshone term meaning ‘gem of the mountains’. The early 19th century saw fur traders and Christian missionaries move into the area, which was then part of Oregon Territory. Idaho only became a distinct territory in 1863, shortly after the discovery of gold and the ensuing rapid growth in population – it then became the 43rd state in 1890.

The deserted streets of Bannack Town in Montana.


Referring to the Rocky Mountains which pass through the west of this northern state, Montana takes its name from the Spanish word for ‘mountain.’ Despite this, the eastern half of Montana is largely flat, forming part of the Great Plains. By the 19th century, various indigenous communities lived in Montana, including the Crow, Cheyenne, Assiniboin, and Blackfoot. The United States secured Montana through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, with fur trappers and Christian missionaries among its first European residents. The discovery of gold in the 1860s resulted in rapid immigration into Montana, which then became a state in 1889. Growing conflict between the European American arrivals and indigenous peoples resulted in clashes like the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Devil's Tower in Wyoming at dawn.


As well as including parts of the Black Hills and Rocky Mountains, the western state of Wyoming is known for its broad open plains. It is also one of three states in which can be found part of the Yellowstone National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the time of European contact, it was home to indigenous groups like the Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, and Dakota, with the name ‘Wyoming’ deriving from a Dakota word meaning ‘land of vast plains’. European fur traders were operating here in the early 19th century, after which it opened up to routes for migrants heading further west. In 1890 it gained statehood, with its state constitution being the first in the country to allow women the right to vote and hold public office.