Description - William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on this site in 1833 to trade with plains Indians and trappers. 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. The primary trade was with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes.
Copyright: Amy Pyle-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
The courtyard of Bent's Fort is the site for many activities at the National Historic Site
For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water and company, rest and protection in this vast "Great American Desert." 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.
- Archeological excavations and original sketches, paintings and diaries were used in the fort's reconstruction in 1976. A 1/4 mile walk down the trail will bring you to the gate of the fort. Inside you can view the 20 minute documentary film, "Castle of the Plains". The trade room and bookstore offer fur trade and park related books and historically authenic reproduction trade goods for sale.
Recreation - Self-guided tours and the film "Castle of the Plains" are available throughout the year. Living history interpreters provide guided tours and demonstrations June 1 through Labor Day. Tours for organized groups are available by reservation only from September through May. Special Events include Kid's Quarters (for 7-11 year olds who have pre-registered)(mid-June), Santa Fe Trail Encampment (late-July) and the Traditional Holiday Celebration (early-December ). Contact the park for exact dates.
The park is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years 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. through 4:00 P.M.
Climate - Summer daytime temperatures range between 80 to 105 F, nights 50 to 75 F. Winter daytime temperatures range between 0 to 65 F, night -20 to 30 F. Precipitation is minimal. Brief afternoon thunderstorms with lightning, hail, and gusty winds can occur during the summer. Winter snow accumulations are generally light, but heavy snows may occur. Layered clothing appropriate for the season is recommended. Weather can vary greatly throughout the day.
Bent's Old Fort is located in southeast Colorado, near the town of La Junta. The park is accessed via U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 194. From La Junta, Colorado on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 109 north 1 mile to Highway 194, then east on Highway 194 six miles to the fort. From Las Animas, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 50, take Highway 194 west 13 miles.