The Santa Fe Trail stretched from Kansas to Santa Fe and took 8 hard and tiring weeks to cross. We’ve explored sections of it before, so as we were in La Junta we decided to explore the section that stretches along highway 350 from Trinidad.
Travellers forded the Arkansas River near modern day La Junta, from there they faced 16 long dry miles until they reached the permanent water source of Timpas Creek.
Looking towards Timpas Creek
As they followed the creek a bluff at Sierra Vista gave them their first glimpse of the edge of the plains and the southern Rocky Mountains.
Raton Pass from the Santa Fe Trail.
It’s hard to imagine that what took us a few hours to drive would take a wagon train at least 4 days. The travellers must’ve thought they were never going to reach the mountains.
From there they travelled on to Iron Springs, which was an important watering hole for livestock. The water was full of minerals and didn’t taste very nice. I assume the spring is still out there somewhere, but we could only see mile upon mile of rolling grasslands.
In 1861 the Missouri Stage Company built a stage station here, which was the only stop on the trail between Bent’s Fort and Trinidad until 1866.
Juniper posts, low mounds of earth and scattered stones, along with well-preserved wheel ruts are all that’s left of the stage station and the Santa Fe Trail.
The remains of the old stage station
I wonder what this once contained.
I loved the colour of the piece of glass and wondered if the wire was once part of a fence.
The remote wide-open grasslands are spectacularly beautiful, while we loved visiting and exploring, the difference between us and the pioneers was that we were travelling in a comfortable air conditioned truck, following a wagon train would be a whole different story.
Have fun, we are!