Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site

Coordinates: 38°02′26″N 103°25′46″W / 38.0406°N 103.4294°W / 38.0406; -103.4294 (Bent's Old Fort)
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Bent's Old Fort
Bent's Old Fort
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is located in Colorado
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is located in the United States
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
LocationOtero County, Colorado, United States
Nearest cityLa Junta, Colorado
Coordinates38°02′26″N 103°25′46″W / 38.0406°N 103.4294°W / 38.0406; -103.4294 (Bent's Old Fort)
Area799 acres (3.23 km2)[1]
ArchitectWilliam Bent; Charles Bent
Visitation28,131 (2009)[2]
WebsiteBent's Old Fort National Historic Site
NRHP reference No.66000254
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966 [3]
Designated NHLJune 3, 1960
Designated NHSDecember 19, 1960 [4]

Bent's Old Fort is an 1833 fort located in Otero County in southeastern Colorado, United States. A company owned by Charles Bent and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain built the fort to trade with Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Plains Indians and trappers for buffalo robes. For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major white American permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. It was destroyed in 1849.

The area of the fort was designated a National Historic Site under the National Park Service on June 3, 1960. It was further designated a National Historic Landmark later that year on December 19, 1960.[4][5][6] The fort was reconstructed and is open to the public.


Approach to Bent's Old Fort, Colorado. Wetlands protecting the north trail.

The adobe fort quickly became the center of the Bent, St. Vrain Company's expanding trade empire, which included Fort Saint Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in New Mexico at Taos and Santa Fe. The primary trade was with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes.

From 1833 to 1849, the fort was a stopping point along the Santa Fe Trail. It was the only permanent settlement not under the jurisdiction and control of Native Americans or Mexicans. The U.S. Army, explorers, and other travelers stopped at the fort to replenish supplies, such as water and food, and perform needed maintenance to their wagons. The American frontiersman Kit Carson was employed as a hunter by the Bent brothers in 1841, and regularly visited the Fort.[7] Likewise, the explorer John C. Frémont used the Fort as both a staging area and a replenishment junction, for his expeditions.[8] During the Mexican–American War in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny's "Army of the West".[9]

Ralph Emerson Twitchell makes the following statement.[10]

Bent's Fort is described as having been a structure built of adobe bricks. It was 180 feet long and 135 feet wide. The walls were 15 feet in height and four feet thick and it was the strongest post at that time west of Ft. Leavenworth. The construction of this fort was commenced in 1828 ... at a point on the Arkansas somewhere between the present cities of Pueblo and Canon City, having been disadvantageously located. Four years were required in which to complete the structure. On the northwest and southeast corners were hexagonal bastions, in which were mounted a number of cannon. The walls of the fort served as walls of the rooms, all of which faced inwardly on a court or plaza. The walls were loopholed for musketry, and the entrance was through large wooden gates of very heavy timbers.


Bent's Old Fort, Lower Level Plan

In 1849 when a great cholera epidemic struck the Cheyenne and other Plains Indians, William Bent abandoned Bent's Fort and moved his headquarters north to Fort Saint Vrain on the South Platte. When he returned south in 1852, he relocated his trading business to his log trading post at Big Timbers, near what is now Lamar, Colorado. Later, in the fall of 1853, Bent began building a stone fort on the bluff above Big Timbers, Bent's New Fort, where he conducted his trading business until 1860.[11]

When the fort was reconstructed in 1976, its authenticity was based on the use of archaeological excavations, paintings and original sketches, diaries and other existing historical data from the period.

In popular culture[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage – December 31, 2011" (XLSX). Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved March 30, 2012. (National Park Service Acreage Reports)
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Bent's Old Fort". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. September 28, 2007. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009.
  5. ^ "Bent's Old Fort or Fort William", April 20, 1984, by Carl McWilliams and Karen Johnson". National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. National Park Service. 1983.
  6. ^ "Bent's Old Fort or Fort William--Accompanying 20 photos, from 1983". National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. National Park Service. 1983.
  7. ^ Hampton Slides, Blood and Thunder, at p. 43 (2006) (Anchor Books paperback ed.)
  8. ^ Memoires of My Life--John charles Fremont, Cooper Square Press, 2001, p. 426-428
  9. ^ Magoffin, Susan Shelby; Lamar, Howard R (1982). Drumm, Stella Madeleine (ed.). Down the Santa Fe Trail and Into Mexico: The Diary of Susan Shelby Magoffin, 1846–1847. Copyright 1926, 1962 by Yale University Press. US: Univ. of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-8116-5.
  10. ^ Ralph Emerson Twitchell, 'The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851 by the Government of the United States Archived September 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine (1909) p.40
  11. ^ Pages 53 to 65, 94, 102, Halaas and Masich, Halfbreed
  12. ^ Georg MacDonald Fraser, pages 98-109 "Flashman and the Redskins, ISBN 0 330 28004 X
  13. ^ Restaurant Website Archived November 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]