LA JUNTA — In our exclusive new series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
The History of Bent's Old Fort
Reconstructed in the 1970s, Bent's Old Fort in La Junta stands tall as a re-creation of a fur trade post from the early to mid 1800s.
Park Ranger Jake Koch tells us that the original fort dates back nearly 200 years.
"It's first documented as being here and open for business if you will in 1833 up through 1849," said Koch.
Managed by Bent, St. Vrain & Company, the fort served as one of the main trading posts of the western fur industry.
It could be found along the Santa Fe Trail, a major trade route connecting Missouri to Mexico.
Travel along the Santa Fe Trail could take months.
"This is your first spot for 600 miles on the trail. Your first structure from Missouri, so if you need any kind of wagon repairs...you've got the blacksmith shop here, the carpenter shop, all of that going on," said Koch.
At the time, the fort sat along the international border with Mexico, the Arkansas River.
Merchants from both sides of the border traded heavily here.
"You've also got a lot of traffic coming from the other way. There's just as many Mexican owned trading companies coming across the trail as there are American owned," said Koch.
What to Expect on your Visit
The fort as we know it today has been here since 1976, and is arguably one of the most accurate historical sites in the U.S.
Its reconstruction is based on original drawings, historical accounts, and archaeological evidence.
A visit puts you side-by-side with living historians who are happy to share their trades and skills with you.
"Depending on the day and who we have here that day, you could see cooking demonstrations, you could see blacksmithing, carpentry, people behind the trade counter to interact with," Koch said.
Our visit to the fort comes the day after a torrential downpour has left the courtyard flooded out.
But still, there's plenty to see here and plenty of historians to engage with.
2021 Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial Symposium
The Santa Fe Trail has a big birthday coming up, and Bent's Old Fort has a grand celebration planned.
Up to 60 living historians will be on display for the 2021 Sante Fe Trail Bicentennial Symposium, which will celebrate 200 years of commerce and cultural connections.
It runs from Thursday, September 23 through Sunday, September 26.
For more information regarding the 200th anniversary celebration, visit www.2021sfts.com.
To find out more about Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, visit www.nps.gov/beol/index.htm.