The Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site includes a reconstructed adobe fur trading post from the 1840's on the Santa Fe Trail's mountain branch where Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, travelers, trappers, and traders peacefully came together to trade. The site today features living historians that work to recreate the smells, sounds, and sights of days from the past through demonstrations, special events, and guided tours.
Charles and William Bent, as well as Ceran St. Vrain, constructed the site's original adobe fort in 1833 in order to trade with both trappers and plains Indians. The fort quickly transformed into the center of the growing trade empire of the Bent, St. Vrain Company. This empire stretched from Fort St. Vrain in the north to Fort Adobe in the south, and included stores in Santa Fe and Taos in Mexico. Trading was primarily for buffalo robes with Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians.
For a large amount of the fort's 16-year history, it was the only sizable permanent white settlement between the Mexican settlements and Missouri along the Santa Fe Trail. Bent's Old Fort provided the U.S. Army, adventurers, and explorers with a place for protection and rest, water, good food, livestock, wagon repairs, and needed supplies. The fort acted as a staging area during the 1846 war with Mexico for the "Army of the West" led by Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny. In 1849, disease and disasters caused the fort to be abandoned. Original diaries, paintings, and sketches, as well as archeological excavations were used in 1976 to reconstruct the fort.
The Bent's Old Fort Hiking Trail is a 1.5-mile trail that takes visitors on a journey along the Arkansas River through cottonwood trees. Many species of birds call the marsh home. Along the trail are interpretive exhibit signs that explain the story of Bent's Fort, the Santa Fe Trail, and the river ecosystem. A quarter mile down the trail will bring guests to the fort's gate.
Inside the fort, visitors can watch a twenty-minute film called "Traders, Tribes and Travelers." The film, as well as self-guided tours, are available at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site year-round. From June to August, living history interpreters offer demonstrations and guided tours. Guided tours are provided four times a day during the summer, and twice a day from September to May. These tours aren't available, however, during special events. Group tours can be organized by calling the fort.
The Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is dedicated to preserving the resources related to the Bent-St. Vrain Trading empire, which radiated out from the fort into present-day Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. It solidified the last established and one of the most important trading cartels in the west. Situated on the western edge of the Great Plains, the site contains the historic scene, reconstructed fort, and archeological remains as its primary resources. These historical resources provide visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the country's westward expansion.
35110 State Highway 194, La Junta, Colorado, Phone: 719-383-5010