Bent's Old Fort National Historic Park
Backstory and Context
Bent's Old Fort was a major settlement along the Santa Fe Trail. William and Charles Bent built the fort in 1833 for trading with the Cheyenne and the Arapaho Plains Indians as well as trappers. It was the only permanent settlement not under the jurisdiction and control of Native Americans or Mexicans.
From 1833-1849, the fort was a place of safety and relaxation and was an essential spot for military troops, explorers and tradesmen. Explorers Kit Carson, John Fremont and many others used to frequent the fort to replenish their supplies. The Mexican-American War, disease and other disasters caused the fort to become abandoned in 1849.
In 1846, the U.S. Army used the post as a staging base for their conquest of New Mexico. That summer, General Stephen W. Kearny and his Army of the West, rested at the fort before proceeding to overtake New Mexico Because of its reputation as a neutral area, the post was a natural meeting place for southern Plains tribes, U.S. officials as well as intertribal councils.
After Kearny and his men left the fort many wagon trains showed up and horses and mules ate too much in the fields. The company was not paid back what it was due and business with the Native Americans took a hit because they were cautious of so many white people being at the fort. Many people flooded into the area killing the buffalo, ruining the water, diminishing limited fodder, and taking advantage of lumber. Eventually cholera broke out in 1849, proving to be too much for the fort after everything else.
The fort was reconstructed in 1976 and was then opened to the public. Located in La Junta, Colorado, it covers approximately 799 acres. With many activities for children as well as adults and recreations of events before, during, and after the war, this national historic site is sure to be an educational as well as fun family vacation.