Southeastern Colorado has been a human activity center since at least the last Ice Age as first indigenous peoples then Spanish explorers and Mexican settlers arrived. Frontiersmen and trappers entered the region in the early 19th century, reconnoitering what was then largely Spanish – and later Mexican – territory in advance of Washington’s westward expansion to the Pacific Ocean. A staging area for the 1846-1848 War on Mexico that resulted in the US annexing the north half of the Republic of Mexico, the region also saw endless herds of buffalo, wagon trains, cattle drives, range wars, and labor strife until settling into the stability of 20th century town and country life.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site – A reconstruction of the 1840s Santa Fe Trail trading post where traders, trappers, travelers and Native Americans traded amicably. Offers guided tours, demonstrations and special events. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Summer hours (June 1 through August 31): 8:00 A.M to 5:30 P.M. Winter hours (September 1 through May 31): 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Comanche National Grasslands – Nearly a half-million acres for hiking, horseback riding, biking, sightseeing and bird watching. Home to over 40 species of mammals and 275 species of birds. Open daily.
Koshare Indian Museum & Kiva Trading Post – Houses a world-class collection of ancient and contemporary Native American art and artifacts including baskets, pottery, weapons, jewelry, sculpture, textiles and clothing. The Museum Gift Shop features works by modern artists. Located in La Junta. Open every day except Tuesday and Thursday, 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., with late hours on show nights. Check for details.
Ludlow Monument – The massive granite monument was erected by the United Mine Workers Union in 1918 to commemorate the victims of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre where the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking miners, killing 22 persons (twelve of them children). Located 12 miles north of Trinidad, one-half mile west of I-25 at Exit 27.
Otero Museum – “Old West” artifacts with an emphasis on early modes of transportation. Features an original 1867 Overland Stage and a railroad exhibit focusing on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe as well as the Kansas Pacific Railroads.
Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site – On November 29, 1864, 700 members of the Colorado Territorial Volunteer Militia under the command of the Rev. John Chivington attacked a peaceful encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians along Sand Creek. More than 150 Native Americans (overwhelmingly women, children and elderly) were killed, and many were mutilated. Among the dead were George Bent (the half-Native son of William Bent, who founded Bent’s Fort) and Lone Bear, the father of Amache (for whom the Japanese internment center at Granada was named). After April 1, 2012, the park will be open daily from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Located five miles north of the town of Chivington.
The Victor American Hastings Mine Disaster Monument – Commemorates the 112 victims of the 1917 coal mine fire. Located a mile and a half west of the Ludlow Monument. (See above.)
Other Places & Events of Interest
Arkansas Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival – This annual event takes place in Rocky Ford and the lower Arkansas Valley every November.
Boggsville Historic Site – Pioneer life of the Old West is brought to life in the summer by local re-enactors in an authentic historic setting. Boggsville was the first non-military Anglo-American settlement in the region.
Crowley Heritage Center & Museum – Located in the restored Crowley School House, the museum features the evolution of local farming and ranching. Has many special events and exhibits throughout the year.
Fowler Historical Museum – Professor O. S. Fowler founded the town in 1887 as a health colony. The Fowler Museum and Historical Society features artifacts from the earliest Native American residents, as well as from pioneer homesteads and schools. The collection includes 20th century and military memorabilia. Open Thursdays 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. and by appointment.
Rocky Ford Museum – features the history of the “Melon Capital of the World” from its founding in 1887 to the end of the 20th century. The museum is housed in Rocky Ford’s historic 1908 Carnegie Library.
Many communities in southeastern Colorado host museums, visitor centers and natural attractions. They include: Campo, Cuchara, Eads, Fowler, Haswell, Holly, Kim, La Veta, Lamar, Las Animas, Manzanola, Ordway, Pritchett, Pueblo, Rye, Springfield, Sugar City, Towner, Trinidad, Two Buttes, Vilas, Walsenburg, Walsh, Weston and Wiley.