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One day while in the La Junta area we decided to go check out Bent’s Old Fort.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site features a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. Today living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events. Of course with COVID things are not 100% normal.
Once we pulled in and read the information panels out front we took the ¼ mile walk down the original Santa Fe Trail to the Fort. The walk was like a walk back into history when the fort was called the “Castle of the Plains” in the 1830’s and 40’s.
A trapper looking fellow met us as we entered the front gate and explained a little about the fort in lingo true to the spirit of the time.
Once greeted we made the Trapper looking fellow gave us a self-guided tour booklet and showed us to a small room where we sat ourselves down on benches true to the period and watched a 20 minute documentary film (Traders, Tribes and Travelers) before continuing our tour.
Ok, here is some history about the fort:
William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original adobe fort on this site in 1833 to trade with Plains Indians and trappers. The fort quickly became the center of the expanding holdings of Bent, St. Vrain & Company, including Fort St. Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in Taos and Santa Fe. The primary trade was with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes.
For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water and company, rest and protection in this vast “Great American Desert.” During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny’s “Army of the West.” Disasters and disease caused the fort’s abandonment in 1849.
Bent’s Old Fort was an important point of commercial, social, military, and cultural contact between Anglo-American, Native American, Hispanic, and other groups on the border of United States Territory. The fort served as a point of exchange for trappers from the southern Rocky Mountains, travelers from Missouri and the east, Hispanic traders from Mexico, and Native Americans, primarily from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa Tribes.
Today, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site features a reconstructed version of the 1840s adobe trading post. Archeological excavations and original sketches, paintings, and diaries were used to replicate the features of the fort, which was reconstructed during the country’s bicentennial and Colorado’s centennial in 1976. The architecturally accurate, reconstructed fort and its historic setting allow visitors to “step back” in time to learn about and reflect on the westward expansion of the United States.
As we walked around there were a couple interpreters scattered around, one guy was working in the carpentry shop and of course was using only the tools that would have been available back in the day and he was an interesting fellow to talk with.
And another guy was wondering around and sort of a Jack of All trades type and he answered a number of questions we had about various rooms and cubbies and he also gave a fire starting demo using flint stone.
Once we finished inside the fort we headed outside and walk a loop trail, a 1 mile trail if I remember correctly that meandered through a wooded area along a river that had a number of information stations that talked about what the area would have been like.
So to sum it up if you ever find yourself in the area we would highly recommend a visit to Bents Old Fort.
Oh!! I’m pretty certain that we have a big change coming in the future that we forgot to mention a few updates ago, dang it!! But I think we will hold off mentioning it at this time because it just doesn’t fit into this update, so stay tuned, you won’t want to miss it!!
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