The Fort Union National Monument is located outside of Watrous, New Mexico. As both a gorgeous natural environment and a vivid part of this country’s historical landscape, Fort Union offers exhibits about the fort and walking trails for its visitors.
Fort Union’s history begins in the mid-nineteenth century, after New Mexico became the territory of the United States. Established to protect the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Union eventually became the largest fort in the Southwest. Once railroads replaced the Santa Fe Trail, however, Fort Union ceased to be useful. Buildings fell into disrepair; by 1891, the fort was closed.
In a preservation effort, the land, fort, and ruins of previous facilities became the Fort Union National Monument in 1956, and today, visitors from all over the country come for the beautiful sights and fascinating history of the area.
Visitors to the Fort Union National Monument can expect to find a variety of permanent offerings.
Fort Tour: Guided by a park ranger, visitors can explore the monument grounds and learn about Fort Union’s role in the history of New Mexico and the country as a whole. The tours covers a half-mile of the monument’s grounds and are offered daily. No reservations are required.
Orientation: Visitors with limited time may choose to skip the Fort Tour in favor of the Fort Orientation. This shorter program still offers information about Fort Union’s history, but is far shorter than a full tour.
Artillery Firing Demonstration: This program is perfect for history buffs visiting the park. Dressed in attire from the Civil War, trained individuals fire a nineteenth-century canon. This event is available only at certain times of the year; interested guests should contact Fort Union for more information.Ranger-led Talks: At different points each day, park rangers offer presentations about their areas of expertise. Each talk is 20 minutes long, and the schedule varies daily. For a specific schedule, guests are encouraged to visit the Visitor Center or call Fort Union.
Bugle Calls: Reconstructed from Fort Union’s time as a military post, the park offers a schedule of bugle calls throughout the day to help visitors immerse themselves in the history of the monument.
Fort Union is committed to providing educational opportunities to its young visitors.
As a national monument, Fort Union is a part of the annual Every Kid in a Parkinitiative. Starting during September of a student’s fourth grade year and ending the following August, this program allows American ten-year-olds (including home-schooled students) to present a voucher at Fort Union (as well as other national parks) to cover any entrance fees.
Educators can seek resources from the PARK Teachers Program, which is available from Fort Union. This professional development opportunity provides pre-service teachers with a teaching module that enhances their skills and increases their content knowledge.
Fort Union is also involved in the Bureau of Land Management’s Junior Explorer program. This program aims to educate to young people about the various lands managed by the BLM. Educational materials and fun booklets guide children through the historical and natural elements of Fort Union. This program gives young visitors the tools they need to become respectful visitors of national monuments, while also encouraging them to have fun. These materials can be obtained at Fort Union or on the Bureau of Land Management’s website.
School groups looking for guided tours should call to make reservations.
At Fort Union, a variety of special events are available to visitors throughout the year.
Between March and October each year, Fort Union offers the Glimpses of the Past Series.Created by the Fort Union National Monument, the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, the Las Vegas Citizen’s Committee for Historic Preservation, and the Friends of Fort Union, this series offers compelling presentations about the history of the area, highlighting topics like fashion, wildlife, and influential figures. Visit Fort Union’s website for an updated schedule of these programs.
The annual Fort Union Days festival occurs each year on the grounds of the Fort Union National Monument. Guest speakers, reenactments, and delicious food are offered during this event. For more information about this year’s event, visitors should contact the Fort Union National Monument or visit their website.
Special tours and commemorative celebrations are available each year. Fort Union offers an updated event schedule on its website each year.
Dining and Shopping
Water fountains are available within Fort Union’s Visitor Center, but sit-down dining and shopping are not provided within the park. However, visitors are encouraged to bring bottled water as well as snacks or a bagged lunch to fuel them during their trip. Next to the Visitor Center, guests can enjoy their food in the covered picnic pavilion.
3115 NM Highway 161, Watrous, NM 87753, Phone: 505-425-8025
More New Mexico ruins