Maps lead to real as well as imaginary journeys. To me, a map makes everything clear somehow. It shows that you can actually go places and do things. I am lucky in that I can “see” maps. Looking at a map, especially a topographic map, lets me see the terrain and the country depicted. I am also intrigued by how things fit together, how countries relate to each other. In fact, I have always found interesting the role geography plays in how countries, cities, and peoples interact with one another.
Recently, Steve Baker donated a magnificent framed map to the Montrose Regional Library. It has been mounted in the Colorado Room if you wish to view it. Map No. 4, produced in 1855, depicts the lands from COO-CHE-TO-PA PASS to the WAHSATCH MOUNTAINS. The map was made from expeditions and surveys made under the direction of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War. Yes, the same Jefferson Davis who went on to serve as the only President of the Confederate States of America. Another familiar name, Capt. J. W. Gunnison, Top. Eng. made the map, assisted by E. G. Beckwith, 3. Artillery, and P. H. Kern is listed as Topographer in the Field.
Looking at the map, one will see some familiar names besides Cochetopa Pass and the Wasatch Mountains. In addition there is the Un-com-pah-gre River, today’s Gunnison River is known as the Grand River, the Silver Mountains, or the Sierra de la Plata. These are the beautiful San Juan Mountains we are fortunate to view to the South every day.
Before he passed away, Dennis Devor arranged to donate his extensive collection of topographic maps to the Library District. These, along with our existing collection make up an impressive accumulation indeed. In all, the collection houses over 500 unique topographic maps from all over Colorado. I would bet it covers many of your favorite hikes. The maps range in date from the 1920s to the 2000s and on them you will discover the sites of ‘off the beaten path’ ghost towns, cemeteries, railroads, mines, mining trails and other historic places.
The large format of these maps will let you visualize your routes in a way that looking at a GPS device, your phone, or your tablet, cannot display. These gems allow you to see Colorado as it used to be, before dams were built and towns and valleys inundated, before towns grew beyond their original borders and other towns died and were forgotten.
Come check out the map case in the Adult Services area of the Montrose Regional Library. Staff will be happy to help you use the new index to what the library has in the collection. The staff went to great effort to create this index which will hopefully lead to many discoveries. Happy trails in your explorations both in and out of the library.