had a few days to kill waiting for truck actions to be completed
so we decided to explore the area around La Junta, CO. La
Junta sits on the banks of the Arkansas River which, in addition
to providing irrigation water, was a well-traveled segment on the
old Santa Fe Trail. Bent's Old Fort (as opposed to the "New
Fort" 40 miles downriver) was a trading outpost that was
established in 1833 by the Bent brothers (William and Charles) and
another prominent figure in Colorado history, Ceran St.
Vrain. The trading post operated from its inception in 1833
to 1849 providing a source of goods for travelers and trappers as
well as a safe haven from potentially hostile Indians.
Fort was excavated in the middle nineteen seventies and then
restored in the nineties using the records of an Army officer that
was stationed there during its operation as the basis for the
reconstruction. While reconstructed with modern materials,
the restoration provided an authentic look-and-feel of the
we had a National Park Pass, entrance to the Fort was "free" so we
grabbed the cameras and headed out.
The photos below are what we saw.
the entrance to the fort are some old wagons that were
representative of the vehicles used during the Fort's active years
1833-1849. This type of wagon was very similar to the
Calistoga-style wagon used by the Fourty-Niners during the gold
type of wagon was used for cargo hauling.
replica of an old field artillery piece. The barrel looked
real and original, but the balance of the frame and carriage was
Old Fort was restored from ruins according to the log book notes
of an officer that was stationed at the fort during it's
operation, thus producing a faithful reproduction of the original
in the Spanish style, the fort had an inner courtyard with rooms
around the perimeter. Second story dwellings and store rooms
doubled as look-out posts. The photo above was a test photo
taken with the HDR setting enabled on my Olympus EM-1
camera. Taken during mid-day, the contrast ratio between
bright sun and the shadows is larger than the dynamic range of the
imaging chip can accurately capture. HDR takes several
photos of the same scene and digitally takes the best portions of
each in an attempt to faithfully reproduce the image. While
the dynamic range did improve and the shadow areas are better
rendered, the process seemed to add a slight grey cast to the
construction was used throughout and when combined with adobe
resulted in a durable structure. But, adobe "melts" when
exposed to rain over the years resulting in a finite life for the
structure unless maintained. Effectively abandoned in 1853,
it melted away until restored in the middle 1990s. This is a
HDR photograph as well. The device on the posts at the
center-left of the photo above is a fur press used to compress
sets of hides for transport.
portions of the fort had second story rooms.
is a reconstruction of a "trading room" where goods exchanged
hands. Since this was one of the most remote outposts, it
was likely that the fort had one of nearly everything available
for a price.
view of the trading room.
was surprised to discover that there was a band of peacocks living
at the fort. They were tolerant of the humans.
blacksmith shop had a good selection of tools that were likely
used at the fort including anvils, vices and a animal-hide bellows
for the furnace.
wood shop was similarly equipped with a broad set of tools from
addition to building furniture, the wood shop repaired wagon
wheels which were vital to travel in the west. On the bench,
a replacement spoke is being fabricated.
found this map quite interesting in that it was printed in
1846. It listed the names of all the Indian tribes that
occupied the various regions of the west.
fur press is clearly visible in the photo above as is the entrance
cook's room had an extensive fireplace and dutch ovens that were
covered in live juniper wood coals.
of the cooks room were a set of "hornos" (adobe ovens) that were
used for baking.
of the trading rooms had a substantial collection of old
flint-lock muskets and buffalo hides.
the remoteness of the outpost, learning that there was a billiards
room was surprising. But, the table was transported to the
fort at great cost. The game was used to entertain visitors
during their long trip west.
area to the east of the fort was lush and green. The stands
of Cottonwood trees were nourished by the groundwater from the
nearby Arkansas River.
portion of the river is visible in the photo above. The
clouds were building on the horizon and later in the day we would
experience a brief thunderstorm.
banks of the river were soft with gooey, clay-based mud. We
ventured no closer for fear of losing our shoes in the mud.
The river level was high due to spring melt-off in the headwaters
area in the mountains to the west.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014, all rights
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.