Tall Tales

Here's the truth about Colorado's myths. We swear.

January 2011


14. The state fish, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout, is almost extinct. True

Colorado boasts 168 miles of Gold Medal fishing—those primo spots to hook a trout—but don’t expect to catch the state’s venerated fish, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout. The species received the state’s top fish-y honor in 1994, but by then it was already near extinction because of us (to wit: mining runoff and introduction of different trout species that don’t play well with others). Don’t write off the Greenback yet, though: Some fish have been found in remote areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife is helping to propagate the elusive trout (it is stocked in 58 streams and lakes). —NG

15. Leadville got its name for the area’s lead mining. False

When the country’s highest-elevation city was founded at the start of Colorado’s Silver Boom, residents hanging out at 10,152 feet thought a silver-named town was too obvious. So in 1878, 18 people got together at a wagon shop and chose the Leadville moniker over names like Agassiz and Carbonateville—putting their stamp on a town that would become an economic hub of the West near the turn of the 19th century. While there was lead in the surrounding hills, the mineral was never the town’s main mining project. —RS

16. U2 once played downtown’s legendary jazz joint El Chapultepec. False

Bono tried to hit the Pec in the late 1980s—to watch the talent, not to rock his band's iconic anthems—but the unimpressed doorman sent him packing when he couldn’t produce legit IDs for the (exceedingly) young women on his arms. That paragon of hipness probably would concede that the legends who actually did play there—including Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Stan Getz—were much cooler than U2, anyway. Or maybe he’d just say he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. —LH


17. Denver has more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks outlets. True


Venti lattes are so 2007. With a measly 44 Starbucks-operated locations in Denver proper, America’s favorite java pusher lags way behind the burgeoning medical pot business. According to Legalmarijuanadispensary.com—also known as “Weedmaps” (Is there an app for that?)—there are more than 70 dispensaries in the 80202 zip code alone. (There are 11 Starbucks in the same area.) This could be good business for Starbucks: The busy pot proprietors are likely fueled by frequent frappuccinos. And scones. And chocolate chunk cookies…. —LH

18. Stephen King’s The Shining was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. False


The eerily picturesque hotel might look like an ideal horror film location, but the iconic slasher movie (“Redrum! Redrum!”) was filmed at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon and at Elstree Studios in London. The Estes Park hotel did play a role in the genesis of Stephen King’s best-selling book of the same name: The tome’s plot came to King in 1974 when he spent the night in the Stanley’s “haunted” room 217. The book was written in Boulder, where King lived for a brief time. So why does the falsehood persist? Simply put, Coloradans love to neither confirm nor deny this rumor: After all, a little King-related tourism isn’t bad. —ALLIE GARDNER

19. Lieutenant Zebulon Pike was the first person to summit Pikes Peak. False

Explorer Zebulon Pike tried to scale the mountain in November 1806, during an expedition to find the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red rivers, but stopped amid waist-deep snow. He never made it to the top. Pike was the first American to document the peak (referring to the mountain as “Grand Peak”). He overestimated its height by 4,000 feet and predicted no one would ever climb it. Pike was wrong: In 1820, Edwin James— a botanist on an expedition—scaled the mountain while looking for the source of the South Platte River. Oh, and Pike may not have even stepped foot on his namesake peak. Experts argue that he hiked nearby Mount Rosa—not Pikes Peak. —RS