Around August, 1969, a group of young people were camping in the Big Sur area of California. Like many groups of youth who had come together in those days, they called themselves a family - the Salmon Creek Family - from the creek where they were camped at Big Sur. They had the hope of some day putting on a large gathering of counterculture people in Colorado in the Rockies. As they knew, the previous year in the summer of 1968, there had been a completely unplanned gathering of thousands of young people in the hills west of Boulder, Colorado. The Salmon Creek Family hoped to do the same thing, but with more planning and with a silent prayer circle for world peace as the central event.
As fall drew on, the Salmon Creek Family decided to leave Big Sur to get away from the harassment that was coming down on them - especially from hunters - because of their "freaky" lifestyle. One of them stuck her finger on a map, touching the northern part of the state of Washington. So they went up to northern Washington, near the town of Marble Mount, to a valley where they saw three mysterious lights with no apparent source. A woman in the valley let them camp on their land, and they became known as the Family of Three Lights. One group of this family went off to camp by themselves. They had some horses and mules and they helped draft dodgers and deserters cross over the border into Canada. This group was known as the Marble Mount Outlaws.
Some of the Marble Mount Outlaws went down to the Renaissance Fair in Eugene, Oregon, in the fall of 1969. At the fair, they met up with the Temple Tribe, a group of craftspeople which also had the dream of some kind of counterculture get-together. In May, 1970, people from the Temple Tribe came up to Washington State and camped with the Marble Mount Outlaws. They began making definite plans to put on a gathering. As a practice for their own gathering, the two groups did the coordination for Vortex, a free rock festival near Portland, Oregon, over Labor Day weekend of 1970. About 75,000 people came to Vortex. The co-ordination was done out of Rainbow Tipis borrowed from the Eagle Scouts. From the Rainbow Tipis, the two groups took one identity the Rainbow Family.
For the next year and a half, members of the Rainbow Family traveled around the USA distributing invitations to the gathering - and finding a site near Granby, Colorado. Every member of Congress was given an invitation to the gathering. So was every delegation to the United Nations. Almost 5,000 copies of the Rainbow Oracle - a collection of poems, drawings and articles on alternate life styles - were given out for free by the Rainbow Family.
When large numbers of people started showing up in Colorado for the gathering in June, 1972, Governor John Love had- the roads blockaded into the gathering site. People started hiking across the mountains to the site - a three day hike. Finally 4,000 people stood in front of the road block asking to be let into the gathering. The road block yielded - the people walked eight miles up the road to the gathering site. By July 4, there were 20,000 people at the gathering. Before daybreak on July 4, several thousand of these people walked to Table Mountain, seven miles from the site. They walked to the top of the mountain and made a gigantic silent circle until the afternoon, praying and meditating for world peace.
The people who had planned the first Rainbow Gathering had no intention of calling another one until in Spring, 1973, the word came that an individual who had been to the Colorado Gathering was calling a Rainbow Gathering on his own on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, with the express disapproval of the tribal council. He had already sent out announcements around the country, and there was the possibility of mass arrests if people went to the reservation. So some of the people who had put on the first gathering hurried to Wyoming and talked with the Forest Service and found a site in a National Forest where people could come and not get arrested.
At the end of the Wyoming Gathering someone left a sign saying "Next year in Utah." And so it was Utah in 1974. Since then, the gathering has been a permanent institution.