Hike through primitive canyons rimmed with juniper and piñon pine. Ski on glassy waters of a dozen reservoirs and lakes. Connect firsthand with the dramatic history that fills Colorado’s past. Embrace the warmth you’ll find in small towns along the way.
Discover the other Colorado. It's waiting for you.
Someone once said "history is all around us", and no truer statement could be made of the Canyons & Plains of southeastern Colorado. Over 1/4 mile of dinosaur tracks—the largest Jurassic site in North America—gives a sense of the extraordinary creatures who roamed this land in prehistoric times. An abundance of mysterious, ancient petroglyphs left by Native Americans centuries ago can be found in the Comanche National Grasslands and John Martin Reservoir. Wandering from room to room or listening to any one of the volunteers working at Bent's Old Fort describe life in the 1840s provides an authentic glimpse into the reality of that era in time. Walking up the hill on the sacred land at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site while an interpretive guide tells the story of that horrendous massacre provides a perspective—unheard anywhere else—on how history was forever changed on that day. A tour at Camp Amache allows a new depth of understanding of the price paid by Japanese Americans during World War II. Even the small towns you'll drive through on your tour of the region remind us of those days gone by.
These are the Canyons & Plains. No glitz, no glamour. Just authentic Colorado. Real, raw and off the beaten path.
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
Profound, symbolic, spiritual, controversial. This site is unlike any other National Park Service site in America. As 675 cavalrymen came around a prairie bend, the camps of Chiefs Black Kettle, White Antelope, and Left Hand lay in the valley before them. Chaotic, horrific, tumultuous, and bloody, the events of November 29, 1864 truly changed the course of history.
Bent's Old Fort:
A Castle on the Plains
History literally comes alive at Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River near La Junta. Painstakingly reconstructed, this impressive, two-story adobe fort gives real time experience of 1840s life at this famous trading post on the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors are free to roam from room to room while interpretive guides provide details, demonstrations and memorable stories about the extraordinary people who lived and traded at this amazing place. Bent's Fort is a national historic site operated by the National Park Service.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were rounded up, forced to leave behind everything they owned except what they could carry in a suitcase and imprisoned in 10 different internment camps across the country. They were not released until the war was over. There was no due process. Their only crime was being of Japanese ancestry. Two thirds of them were American citizens, and many of them were children. Camp Amache was one of those camps.
Birding. Biking. Water skiing. Hiking. Kayaking. Backpacking. Dinosaur tracking. Swimming. Sailing. "Jet skiing was great." 9 lakes and John Martin, number two in the state. Camping. Canoeing. "Petroglyphs! They're how old?" No crowds. Lots of silence, more precious than gold. Fishing at night. Water like glass. "They come from all over for the wiper and bass." Watching the sunset. No sound of cars. Watching the wildlife. Billions of stars.
Leave the city behind. You should give it a try. See the canyons and plains beneath a big Western sky.
Comanche National Grassland
Even if a single book had never been written about the Comanche National Grassland, its history would still be known, for the land, itself, tells its own tale. Under the management of the US Forest Service, these 435,000 acres are divided into two separate, independent sites—one by La Junta and the other south of Springfield—both of which offer an array of experiences for people of all ages and levels of ability. Those adventurers who trek through these lands will find themselves on a remarkable and memorable journey through time.
John Martin Reservoir
Located 100 miles east of Pueblo on the historic Santa Fe Trail in the canyons and plains of southeastern Colorado, the uncrowded, clear, cool, blue waters of John Martin Reservoir provide some of the best boating, fishing and birdwatching in the state. For those who prefer terra firma, biking and hiking trails offer ample opportunities to watch wildlife and ponder the meaning of petroglyphs etched into the rocks by Native Americans who, centuries before, passed through as they followed the buffalo. Two different campgrounds are also available for those who want to cap off their outdoor adventure with a peaceful night's sleep beneath the stars. John Martin Reservoir State Park is one of the largest reservoirs in all of Colorado and qualifies as a "must do" on the outdoor adventurist list.
When, in 1873, a homesteader named Brewster M. Higley VI wrote a poem named “My Western Home,” and his friend Daniel Kelley, a Civil War veteran, wrote the music for the poem that became “Home on the Range,” there is every likelihood that they were writing of the deer and antelope found in the canyons and plains.
Deer, antelope, bear, badgers, bobcats, big horn sheep, mountain lions, muskrats, elk... wildlife is abundant in the canyons and plains. Taking the time to stop and watch reminds us of what’s important. It can even feel like you’re home. On the range.