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Prehistoric Game Drive System

Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Road

“Recent discoveries at alpine sites south of the Park have demonstrated that some camp sites and large game drive systems date between 3850 and 3400 B.C. Even these well-used sites, however, are believed to have been temporary, seasonal camps, with Indians migrating to milder spots during winter. It is suspected that groups of people, primarily extended families, migrated each year from the lower elevations of the foothills up to the high country as seasonal conditions permitted and as wild plants ripened and animals became active.”
 
“The most intriguing archeological remains from this era are the large stone structures of the game drive systems. Scholars have identified forty-two of these low-walled rock structures at locations along the Front Range crest. They are dry laid stone walls or closely built rock cairns, producing a slight barrier along the natural slopes. Some of these walls may stretch for hundreds of feet in length. One of these structures, for example, lies close to today's Trail Ridge Road. At one time pioneers speculated that these walls were fortifications, used by one tribe to defend its territory against an invader. Today, evidence points toward their use in hunting animals in country devoid of cover. Commonly used in other arctic or tundra environments, these slight walls served as devices that permitted hunters to direct or herd game animals toward men waiting with weapons. Quite a variety of walls were constructed, depending upon the lay of the land. Normally they were built by piling rocks in long rows, forming a perceptible barrier or wall. Sometimes the walls formed a U or V shape or had parallel rows; some also had pits nearby to help conceal an ambushing hunter. It is clear that building these rock-walled drive lines took considerable amounts of time and labor, but it is also assumed that these helpful structures were used repeatedly for centuries.”
 
“ In addition to using mountain passes for routes of travel, prehistoric people also hunted in the high country. They constructed rock walls to enhance the natural contour of the slopes, creating "game drive systems." Once thought to be Indian "forts" used to defend territory, it is now recognized that these walls allowed concealment in open country and helped guide sheep, deer, or elk toward awaiting hunters. More than forty such U-shaped and funnel-shaped drive systems have been identified along the crest of the Front Range. ”
 
“ It is probable that twenty to twenty-five people were needed to conduct an animal hunt of this type, with some Indians driving the mountain sheep or elk toward awaiting hunters poised to kill. Spears tipped with razor sharp stone points, or darts thrown with an atlatl or spear thrower may have been used to kill the animals. Mule deer, mountain sheep, elk, and bison became the primary animals hunted. ”

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 This text is from Rocky Mountain National Park: a History by Curt Buchholtz. Used with permission. This excellent book may be read online or purchased from the Barnes and Noble online bookstore.

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