La Junta, Colorado

La Junta, CO
 

La Junta is a city in Otero County, Colorado. The population was 7,568 at the 2000 census. La Junta is located in southeast Colorado, on the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. The town is home to two well-known attractions: Bent's Fort, an important trading post in the old west, and the Koshare Indian Museum, regarded as one of the finest collections of Native American artifacts in the world.

Overview

La Junta is located about 60 miles southeast of Pueblo. The county seat of Otero County, La Junta has for more than a hundred years formed a junction for commercial, agricultural, and ranching ventures. Before that, La Junta was the junction where the Santa Fe Trail branched south to New Mexico, while a lesser route continued west to Pueblo and beyond. The Santa Fe Trail was one of the nation's first great trade routes.

La Junta sits on the south bank of the Arkansas River in what is primarily shortgrass prairie country. The mountains for which Colorado is so famous can be seen to the west, but this is rolling prairie land. Farming dominates the landscape in a narrow corridor along the river, while a short excursion north or south of US Highway 50 brings travelers to miles upon miles of grasslands.

Downtown La Junta 1940s

Colorful History

The first advent of the white men to Arkansas Vaalley was probably that of Vasquez De Coronado in 1541 when he searched for the "Seven Cities of Cibola" and the "Kingdom of Quivera." The exact line of march has been in doubt; finding of a skeleton and firearm in Vogel Canyon south of La Junta brings evidence that his trail may have been very close to present La Junta.

In 1716, the French, in exploring the Arkansas river westward, may have come as far west as Colorado.

In 1802 James Pursely crossed the plains to Sante Fe and in 1804 Pike, Lewis and Clark explored the Arkansas to the Royal Gorge.

The first settlers in the lower Arkansas Valley were a firm of trappers known as Bent, St. Vrain & Company, who came from St. Louis in 1826 and on their arrival constructed a picket fort containing several rooms as a place of defense and headquarters preparatory to opening trade with the Indians on the site of Old Fort Bent.

Two years later, at the same place, they commenced work on a large adobe fort which was completed in 1832. These were the first improvements made by white men, and for ten years this firm and their employees were the only white traders in the country. This fort was blown up by the proprietor, Col. Bent, in 1852.

The first trading post was established at the present site of La Junta about 1869 or 1870 by a firm known as Chick Brown and Sellars. The town was first known as Otero, named for Don Miguel Otero, last of the great Sante Fe traders who operated headquarters at this point; on July 4th, 1878 the name was changed by the A. T. and S. F. Railway Company to La Junta, meaning the junction.

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