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.
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.
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.
Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts
For 51 years, Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts cast and crew members have been mounting local theatrical productions from character driven dramas to large scale musical productions to original plays by local playwrights. Equally remarkable is the theater itself: an 85-year-old, restored stone building built by local men as part of the Great Depression's WPA.
While in La Junta, take the time to check out the Picketwire Center. Years later, you'll still find yourself saying, "Remember that night when we went to Picketwire?"
Towner Bus Tragedy
In 1931, a spring day started with warmer temperatures and blue skies. By day's end, a massive blizzard had paralyzed the High Plains, marooning 20 young children and their bus driver in a broken down bus in the middle of nowhere. The ordeal lasted 33 long, life changing hours, resulting in a story of that captured hearts across the nation. That story still has an impact today.
Koshare Museum & Dancers
In a small town like La Junta, it's very unusual to have such a quality, interesting museum as the Koshare Museum and Trading Post. But then, the Koshare Museum is a very unusual place.