Author Talk with Ruth M. Alexander on “Democracy’s Mountain: Longs Peak and the Unfulfilled Promises of America’s National Parks”

Avenir Gallery University Center for the Arts Room 157 216 E. Lake St. Fort Collins, CO 80524

An Author Talk with Ruth M. Alexander on: Democracy’s Mountain

Thursday November 16 | 7:00 PM | Avenir Museum –  216 E Lake St, Fort Collins, CO 80524 | Room 157

Book copies available for sale at the event free book signing | Refreshments and Cookies Provided


At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak towers over Colorado’s northern Front Range. A prized location for mountaineering since the 1870s, Longs has been a place of astonishing climbing feats—and, unsurprisingly, of significant risk and harm. Careless and unlucky climbers have experienced serious injury and death on the peak, while their activities, equipment, and trash have damaged fragile alpine resources. As a site of outdoor adventure attracting mostly white people, Longs has mirrored the United States’ tenacious racial divides, even into the twenty-first century.

In telling the history of Longs Peak and its climbers, Ruth M. Alexander shows how Rocky Mountain National Park, like the National Park Service (NPS), has struggled to fulfill three fundamental promises to Americans—to facilitate visitor enjoyment, protect natural resources, and manage the park as a site of democracy. Too often, it has treated these promises as competing rather than complementary obligations, reflecting national discord over their meaning and value. Yet the history of Longs also shows us how, over time, climbers, the park, and the NPS have attempted to align and fulfill these obligations. Real progress has been made, though more work needs to be done.

Alexander’s nuanced account of Longs Peak reveals the dangers of undermining national parks’ fundamental obligations and presents a powerful appeal to meet them fairly and fully.



Ruth M. Alexander is Professor of History Emerita at Colorado State University. Ruth’s expertise as a teacher and scholar extends from the history of women, race, and politics in the United States to American environmental history and the history of national parks. Ruth was a founding member of CSU’s Public and Environmental History Center, and as a Principal Investigator on PEHC projects she has conducted research for Rocky Mountain National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Scotts Bluff National Monument, and Fort Collins Utilities.