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Step Back in Time at Fort Uncompahgre Interpretive Center in Delta

Travel Back to the 1800s with a visit to the Fort Uncompahgre Interpretive Center in Delta.

One of only nine Old Spanish National Historic Trail interpretive sites, the museum is a replica of a fort built in 1828 by Antoine Robidoux, a fur trader of French-Canadian origin who later became a Mexican citizen in Santa Fe. Established near the confluence of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers while the region was still part of Mexico, the original fort was a hub for trade and travel routes, notably the Old Spanish Trail (OST) and the Santa Fe Trail. At its peak, it employed between 15-18 men, and provided trade opportunities for travelers and native Utes alike. The fort was abandoned in 1844 when it was burned to the ground after fighting broke out between the Utes and Mexicans and the majority of the fort's inhabitants were killed.

The OST and Santa Fe Trail both passed nearby the historic fort. Used primarily between 1830 and the late 1850's, the OST established a trade connection between the settlements around Santa Fe, New Mexico, and southern California. Mexican trader Antonio Armijo led the first successful commercial caravan in 1829 over the nearly 2,700 miles of grueling terrain, following a network of indigenous footpaths and earlier exploratory trade routes, including those of Dominguez and Escalante. The Santa Fe Trail, opened in 1821, connected Santa Fe to Missouri. Like the OST, it followed routes established by the native peoples, and was used primarily by commercial traders and settlers until the completion of a railroad to Santa Fe in 1880 made the trail all but obsolete.

While the exact location of the original fort has been lost, the museum has done an excellent job of capturing what life would have been like during the fort's operation. There are several buildings ranging from a blacksmith's shop to a kitchen, complete with an horno, a traditional outdoor beehive-shaped adobe oven. Witness the simple living of the trapper's cabin, and don't miss the trade room, where you can learn about the types of goods that would have been bartered for at the fort, many of which were brought from the East on the Santa Fe trail.

The Fort, located at 440 North Palmer Street, is co-administered by the BLM and NPS, and is open Monday-Saturday from 9 – 5, with school tours available in April, May, September, and October. There is a visitor center with a bookstore and gift shop, and it is also a certified Public Lands Information Center where you can find information on public lands with maps, park passes, and permits available. Explore the fort to experience the living history of the mid-1800's, learn about the history of trade and exploration in the area, and gain a new appreciation of the history of our region. The cost of admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for ages 12-18, free under 12, and a $15 family group rate.

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