Signal Mountain has stood sentry to Beulah Valley for a whopping 110 million years. In modern times, the prominent geographic location has served humans as a lookout, but to most the striking pyramid-like shape serves as a welcome or a greeting. Experienced travelers of the “Beulah Road” can spot Signal Mountain from the Sand Hills just outside of Pueblo, and know they will eventually travel down a water gap on the north side now called Beulah Hill. Signal Mountain has seen some characters come and go. Here are some of the highlights.
Smoke Signals, Signal Fires and Signals
Tribes of the Ute Nation migrated seasonally in the Beulah area and according to an interview of pioneer John Joseph Sease (who came to Beulah as a boy in 1863) Signal Mountain was so named “because of its use by the Indians as the point from which smoke signals might rise.” An early Colorado road guide describes the drive to Beulah and a brief description of Signal Mountain, “A lookout used by Ute Indians and later by the Federal Government as a signal station during Indian raids, when messages were flashed to Pikes Peak and the Spanish Peaks.”
According to “History of Arkansas Valley” written in 1881, “We were nearly always warned of the approach of Arapahoe and Cheyenne by a system of telegraphy practiced by the Utes. This was by signal fires, built on the most prominent peaks of the mountains bordering the plains. The principal ones were Long’s, Pike’s and Spanish Peaks, and Greenhorn and Signal Mountains.” The plural reference of Signal Mountains may indicate several “Signal Mountains” in the area.
Juan Mace (Juan Maes)
Local legend shares the brilliant schemes of the notorious Juan Mace who was said to have rustled cattle between 1859-1863 with the help of Signal Mountain. A Pueblo Chieftain article of June 15, 1924 shares the details, “So dastardly and extensive became these depredations, that the settlers would organize pursuing bands and endeavor to follow Mace and his band into their stronghold. But when followed into the valley, they would find their prey gone. And that is where Signal Mountain served... as a lookout, for with watchmen stationed at the summit of the mount, Mace and his gang would always receive ample warning in advance. So by the time the avenging pursuers would arrive Mace would have the cattle and horses which he had stolen, driven far away and up to that high closed in valley now called Second Mace.” Access to Second Mace was by way of Mace Trail, familiar to many who have hiked in Pueblo Mountain Park.
Professor F. V. Hayden
Interestingly, Signal Mountain received official designation from none other than Professor F. V. Hayden according to a 1901 article in The Colorado Daily Chieftain. “Signal Mountain is east of Beulah two miles and was named by Professor Hayden of the United States Geological Survey thirty years ago when he had his signal station on the summit of the big mound.” Of note, Professor Hayden was the first geologist-in-charge of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories in 1869. He also lead the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 in Yellowstone, as well the Hayden Butte in Rye is named after him. At that time, signal stations utilized nothing more than a large theodolite (a surveying instrument with a rotating telescope for measuring horizontal and vertical angles) to determine location and elevation of surrounding areas.
Excursions to the Top
In 1898 visitors were encouraged by Major Townsend, a local developer and hotel proprietor, to travel to the many points of interest throughout Beulah. One excursion took them to the pinnacle of Signal Mountain dubbed “Rocky Robby.” A reporter for The Colorado Weekly Chieftain entitled his 1898 article “On the Dizzy Height” and wrote, “There are many grand trips and round trips. One of the most beautiful is to ascend Signal Mountain then to “Rocky Robby” at an elevation of 10,000’. We left the hotel at 7am with the Major as a guide. The road is good all the way, constantly climbing higher and higher, every turn presenting some new surprise, and showing the valley from many points of advantage. One gets a view to the east from look-out point that is at once the grand, the beautiful and the vast, sublimated into one lingering beauty with the Three R ranch right under us. We reached Rocky Robby at 11am and from the summit—Well the views are indescribable. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful and extensive view in Colorado. Beulah valley becomes a vast green bowl, away down under you, while outside the plains undulate like ocean waves, hundreds of miles north, east and south.”
In the last decade of the 19th century, Signal Mountain landed in many headlines shouting promises of gold on the hogback that runs to the west. It turns out there was no gold in the hills, despite the efforts of one shyster who shaved gold coins and loaded them into a shotgun shell and then shot it into the rock as proof of the strike. Additionally, his glowing reports in local Pueblo papers inspired dreams of getting rich on Signal Mountain. This from The Colorado Daily Chieftain in 1902: “Its sides are covered with a dense growth of forests, cedar trees mostly, which are rapidly giving way to the inroads of the axe. It is said that most of the mountain side is government land which has long ago been patented, but this has made no difference to the prospectors.”
Both Mt. Signal Hotel (late 1890s) and Mt. Signal restaurant (1949-1955) were named after the distinguished Signal Mountain. In 1996, Signal Mountain Ranch development was created and covers approximately 2,000 acres area south of Signal Mountain.
Geology of Signal Mountain
The Colorado Daily Chieftain shares an underwhelming, yet apt description in 1902, “Signal Mountain is not very high and neither is it very long, joining with and losing its identity with the remainder of the range in very short distance.” Local geologist Ken Balleweg offered up a more detailed description.
“Signal Mountain and the Hogback Ridge extending to the southwest are comprised of the Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone, which was deposited approximately 110 million years ago in a deltaic environment similar to the current Mississippi Delta. Evidence of a beach depositional environment include extensive burrows left by shoreline residing organisms and abundant wave ripple marks.
“The sharp linear southeast side of Signal Mountain reflects the top of the Dakota Formation and the southeast flank of a major anticlinal fold centered on the Beulah valley formed during the Laramide Orogeny about 80 million years ago. Rock units to the west were compressed and pushed to the east, resulting in folding of the stratigraphic units along the leading edge and an approximately 27 o tilt to the Dakota Sandstone forming Signal Mountain. The folding event also resulted in smaller folds directly to the south of Signal Mountain, the Beulah Syncline lying directly west of the 3R Road, and the Beulah Anticline, directly to the east of the 3R road. The Beulah Syncline produced artesian water during the 1890s, and the Beulah Anticline was unsuccessfully drilled for oil in the early 1900s.
“The northwest Beulah Valley portion of Signal Mountain is comprised of the underlying Morrison Formation, which is mostly covered, the Entrada Sandstone, which forms a conspicuous white ledge about one-third of the way from the top of the Hogback, and the red Fountain Formation underlying the majority of the valley. These relatively softer units in comparison to the resistant ridge-forming Dakota are within the core of the valley anticlinal fold.”
The steadfast Signal Mountain appears unfazed by the intricacies of its formation or the ways people have put its heights to use, remaining a beautiful constant for all who reside or visit Beulah. v