Step back in time to the Old West and plan to spend a few hours at Bentís Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, Colorado. On the easy 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot to the gates of the fort you will be following the original Santa Fe Trail. Step through the massive doors and be transported back to the 1840s. Tour the fort and see rooms filled with period furnishings, the working blacksmith shop, the trade room with buffalo robes, beads, trinkets, shot and other period trade items, the carpenter's workshop, the game room, and much more. Living history interpreters dressed in period clothing are never far away and provide guided tours and demonstrations. You can take a self-guided tour any time and explore the rooms of the fort at your own pace. Be sure to stop by the book store for reproduction souvenirs and a piece of stick candy to enjoy while you view the 20 minute documentary film "Castle of the Plains" to familiarize yourself with the history and reconstruction of the fort.
Special Events include Kid's Quarters for 7-11 year olds who have pre-registered in June, Santa Fe Trail Encampment in July and a Traditional Holiday Celebration in December. For more information on Bent's Old Fort special events please see their event calendar.
William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on this site in 1833 to trade with trappers and Native Americans, primarily the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, for buffalo robes. The adobe fort quickly became the center of the Bent, St.Vrain Company's expanding trade empire that included Fort St.Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in Mexico at Taos and Santa Fe.
For much of its 16-year history, the adobe fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements around Santa Fe. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water, camaraderie, rest and protection in the vast "Great American Desert". The famous Western scout Kit Carson was a hunter for the fort from 1831 to 1842. During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny's "Army of the West". Disasters and disease caused the fort's abandonment in 1849. Archeological excavations and original sketches, paintings and diaries were used in the fort's reconstruction in 1976.
This one-day event is held each summer during June, for children ages 7-11. This popular event lets youngsters "step back in time" and learn the skills of the 1800's. Children are split into groups and learn the frontier skills of trappers, traders, laborers, blacksmiths, carpenters, Indians, and soldiers. They start early in the morning with a swearing in ceremony to "work" for the Bent-St. Vrain Company. Following the ceremony they break into groups and are taught by adult instructors. At the close of the days' activities the children receive refreshments and participation certificates. Call 719-383-5010 for an application (a nominal fee is charged for this event).
This annual summer event is held in July and is certainly one not to miss. Witness the arrival of the "Army of the West" at Bent's Fort as living historians portray US dragoons, infantrymen, artillery engineers, and topographical engineers marching towards Mexico. The camp is set up along the Arkansas River just east of the fort. Take a walk from the entrance of the fort through the willows and as you step into the clearing you will believe you have stepped through a time portal. Authentic tee-pee's stand in the field near military tents with horses grazing in the tall grasses. Wander among the camps and visit with the dragoons and infantrymen in the shade of the tall cottonwood trees. After visiting the camp return to the fort for a tour. You will find many volunteers in period dress, some will be bartering in the trade room, the blacksmith will be making implements and horseshoes and the carpenter will be busy putting together new benches for the guests. The activities usually begin on Friday evening and end on Sunday. Call 719-384-5010 for more information. Regular admission fees apply.