LA JUNTA, Colo. (CBS4)– About 30,000 people visit Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, near La Junta, for an immersive experience based in the 1830s. Many people don’t know just how close to history they are when John Carson is their tour guide.
“I usually start in the trade room because that’s why Mr. Bent is here, for trade. As we go around we talk about the different roles people would have had. Whether it’s the ladies in the kitchen, or the blacksmiths, carpenters, and we also talk about the lifestyle,” Carson said while dressed in moccasins, leather pants, and a shirt he made himself.
Carson and the other volunteers dress in clothing of the time to show what the trading outpost would have been like and how it operated.
“If I had my druthers, yea, I would have been born in 1809,” Carson says while laughing.
John is the great-grandson of Kit Carson who worked at Bent’s Fort when it was in operation.
John says he knew he always wanted to teach history since he was a kid. He volunteered at the fort starting in the early 1980s, but left teaching history to high school students to work full time at the National Park Service site.
“We’re all still teaching history, we just aren’t in a class room,” John said. “Last night I was up until 2 o’clock reading another book. That’s just what you do.”
Carson is known for his elaborate tours. Last week the Colorado Tourism Office honored him for his outstanding work. He says it’s teamwork to transform the fort back in time.
“People had to live different out here,” he says. “They’re not in 2019 or whatever it is, they’re moving into the 1830s and 40s. When they leave they’ve got a better appreciation of what those men and women went through being out here.”
John works most weekends, and is on hand for big events planned throughout the summer.