Our History

Photo of Rigden family circa 1900The CSU Environmental Learning Center has a rich history. Dating back to the 1800’s, the ELC has served a variety of different people. In the early 1800’s, the ELC lands served the Plains Indian tribe, the Arapaho, during their hunts for Buffalo. Also, a Council Tree was on the grounds where nearby Indian tribes held “pow wows” and tribal council meetings.

In the 1860s, the westward movement in the United States reached the area where the ELC now sits. Then, the Sherwood Brothers, Jesse and Frederick, of New York, became some of the first settlers in the Poudre River Valley. They acquired thousands of acres and were prominent figures in the area serving as Indian agents and managing the Overland Trail stagecoach stop, also located on ELC grounds.

To appease a wife who longed for eastern luxury, Jesse Sherwood built a house using a concrete-like material called grout. It was one of the finest structures of its time and stood the test of time until 1998 when it was burned down due to arson. Sherwood’s wife wasn’t sold on the western lifestyle, though, and she returned to the East Coast.

In the 1960’s, the descendants of a pioneer farmer named Charles Rigden donated to Colorado State University more than 80 acres of land along the Cache la Poudre River. Over the years, this property evolved into CSU’s Environmental Learning Center (ELC), and today encompasses 212 acres of cottonwood forest, riparian areas, and prairie grasslands.