The Angel of Shavano

I was not familiar with the legend of the Angel of Shavano until I came across this photo of John’s.  I started researching the story and found it quite interesting.  The legend varies depending on the source.



Mount Shavano is a 14er in the southern Sawatch Range of the Colorado Rockies.  The Upper Arkansas River valley lies at the foot of the mountain.  The farmers in the valley depend on the run off from Mount Shavano to provide water for their crops.

Around mid-June, most of the snow has melted leaving the impression of an angel with outstretched arms on the side of Mount Shavano.  If you are headed west on Highway 50 toward Monarch Pass, once you pass Salida look to the right.  The Angle will appear with outstretched arms near the top of the second peak.

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Indian Princess

The first story I found about the Angel of Shavano is that of an Indian princess.   During a terrible drought, the Indian princess went to the foot of the mountain to pray for rain.  The God of Plenty agreed to end the drought in exchange for the princess’s life.  She cared so much for her people that she agreed.  Each summer, the princess appears in the form of the angel on the mountain. Her tears are the melting snow that flows down into the valley to water the crops.

The next legend about Jupiter is similar to the Indian princess legend.


Jupiter’s Punishment

In this version of the legend, a young goddess angered the god Jupiter with her behavior. As punishment, Jupiter turned her into an angel made of ice and placed her up on Mount Shavano telling her that her people would suffer a great tragedy that would bring her to tears.

For many, many years, the angel lived on Mount Shavano watching over her people.  In time, the rain stopped falling and the river dried up.  The angel watched as her people suffered from the drought.  Her people began to die from the drought.  And there was nothing the angel could do except watch the suffering.  In desperation, she began to cry.  As she cried, her body of ice started to dissolve.  The angel was distressed by this but then she saw that the ice was turning to water and flowing down the mountain.  The dry river started filling up.  The angel had come to the rescue of her people.

For a full version of this legend, check out the article in Colorado Central Magazine.


Chief Shavano

I found two slight variations of this particular legend.  One refers to Chief Shavano’s with Jim Beckwourth, a freed slave mountain man .  The other refers to Chief Shavano’s friendship with George Beckwith, a scout.

In both variations, Chief Shavano’s close friend (Beckwourth or Beckwith, depending on the version) was severely injured in an accident.  Chief Shavano went to the foot of Mt. Shavano to pray for his soul.  The appearance of the angel was a sign that the gods heard his prayers.


If you have heard other legends about the Angel of Shavano, please share them with me in the comments!