(CBS4)The Santa Fe Trail stretches 1,203 miles from just north of Boonville, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico and 188 of those miles are in southeastern Colorado.

Traders and trailers used the trail from the 1820s until 1880, mostly to haul freight between the Missouri River Valley and Santa Fe. During the 1840s, Gold Rush emigrants used it to make their way to California. In the 1850s, it was a key route for the Colorado Gold Rush.

The Colorado segment of the trail is known as the mountain route and it played an important role in the lives of those who lived in southeastern Colorado.

Taking the trail offers a chance to learn about the history of this area of the Centennial State.

The trail crosses into Colorado just east of Amache National Historic site along Highway 50. While Camp Amache did not exist at the time of the trail, take the time to learn about the Japanese Americans sent there during World War II.

Get set for exploring the rest of the trail with a stop at the Colorado Welcome Center at Lamar. Lamar is home to the Madonna of the Trail statue. It was actually founded in 1886, after much trading on the trail was diminished as the railroads reached Santa Fe.

(Credit: NPS)

Next stop is the Comanche National Grassland. A number of Santa Fe Trail routes went through the grassland, which covers more than 440,000 acres. You’ll find a number of interpretive areas here to learn about the trail’s history.

An important stop in the grassland was Iron Spring. The spring was on a route that connected Indigenous people long before the Santa Fe Trail traders went through. You’ll even find trail ruts are still visible. Farther along in the grassland, you’ll find the Sierra Vista Interpretive Site where travelers first saw the distant Spanish Peaks, an important landmark. The grassland is also home to the Timpas Unit, the area where travelers found the first source of water after leaving the Arkansas River. The Metcalf Ranch was a stagecoach location at the site.

(Credit: NPS)

Boggsville was a stage stop on the trail, founded by Thomas Boggs and John Prowers on land belonging to their Indigenous wives. Rumalda Luna Bent Boggs had a great uncle who was a Mexican businessman who controlled millions of acres through Spanish land grants. Amache Prowers was the daughter of Cheyenne Chief Lone Bear who died in the Sand Creek Massacre. She received land in reparations for his death. Boggsville is also the final home of Kit Carson.

Bent’s Old Fort may be the most well-known stop on the trail currently. You’ll find a reconstructed trading post where living historians recreate the past with guided tours, demonstrations and events. William and Charles Bent built in 1833 and for much of the history of the trail, it was the only major permanent white settlement on the trail. The fort drew traders, trappers and Native American tribes together for peaceful trade. William Bent’s wife, Mestaa’ėhehe known to some as “Owl Woman,” was key to that trade and a popular mountain and pass between Evergreen and Idaho Springs was renamed in her honor.

(Credit: NPS)

Raetta Holdman