Between the years 1821 – 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was America’s first international highway. The Santa Fe Trail was first and foremost a commercial route between Mexico and the United States. Unlike its contemporary, the Oregon Trail, which was an emigrant route, the Santa Fe Trail was the highway of merchants traveling in either direction with goods to sell.
In 1821 William Becknell began the first successful trading journey from Missouri to Santa Fe along what would be called the Santa Fe Trail. In celebration of the trail’s Bicentennial, you can visit many fascinating historic sites along the trail in southeast Colorado.
Administered by the National Park Service, this reconstructed fur trading post on the trail lets visitors travel back in time to the 1840s. Interpreters in period clothing tell the story of the post in the history of the west.
A National Historic District just south of Las Animas, the Boggs and Prowers Houses, built in the 1860s, still stand as remnants of one of the first settlements along the trail. This is where the ranching and farming history of the region began.
Learn the story of an 1864 U.S. Army attack on an unsuspecting Native American village resulting in the deaths of over 230 villagers and the beginning of a time of warfare across the Plains.
Administered by History Colorado, the property features the historic Bloom Mansion and Baca House, two residences built in the late 19th century, as well as the Santa Fe Trail Museum, all on one block in Trinidad’s acclaimed historic district.
Three sites along US Highway 350 between La Junta and Trinidad let you explore the trail on your own. Visit Sierra Vista Overlook, Timpas Picnic Area, and Iron Springs Historic Site to see trail ruts and walk sections of the trail.
The Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial is a commemoration of a living part of the American Experience. The Trail remains crucial to American history in all its many forms: connecting people in commerce, conflict, and culture. The Bicentennial creates opportunities for education, awareness, and exploration of the countless facets of the American Experience past, present, and future.
The keystone event of the 200-year celebration will take place in La Junta, September 22 – 26, 2021. Living history, tours and speakers will tell the story of the trail. For more information and to register click on www.2021sfts.com. The celebration continues, in Trinidad, at the commemorative event on September 27 – October 3, 2021.
Entrenched into the expansive buffalo grass prairie, the Canyons & Plains of Southeast Colorado expose a sedimentary land on which dinosaurs walked and ancient peoples left an extensive record of rock art. The canyon country marks a course followed not only by Jurassic giants and historic hominids, but migratory mammals, aquatic life, and the greatest concentration of bird species to be seen anywhere on the North American continent.
You can view more than 400 of the 625 bird species that mate in North America in Southeast Colorado—in its canyons, upon its plains, and along its watercourses. Follow the Purgatoire canyon country through the grasslands, and you’ll arrive at the confluence of the Purgatoire and Arkansas Rivers.
Located on the heart of the Mountain Branch of the Old Santa Fe Trail, you can explore the old trail by car on Highway 50 and 350 by following the Santa Fe National Historic Trail where progress and preservation live side-by-side.
Canyons & Plains is a heritage tourism development organization located in Southeast Colorado. Representing seven counties—Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, and Prowers. The non-profit group promotes visitation to and stewardship of the unique historical, natural, and cultural assets of Southeast Colorado among resident, state, national, and international audiences.