Back to the Old Spanish Trail Field Trip: October 2, 2021

Back to the Old Spanish Trail Field Trip


Saturday, October 2, 2021    9:00 am – 12:00 noon

 Join Chris Miller, Executive Director, Fort Uncompahgre and the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado along with Jon Horn, Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Montrose. CO and Richard Waller, National Old Spanish Trail Assoc. Colorado Director on a field trip to explore the Old Spanish Trail location in Delta County. Horn will share with you the points of interest along the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail (OST) and future plans to interpret the history of the trail and why Antoine Robidoux picked the strategic location for his Fort Uncompahgre. Jon Horn will share the location of segments of the Old Spanish Trail and the history.

The general location of the Fort is what has been referred to by author (Baker 2008) as the Great Delta topographic gate on the Gunnison River. The topography at this location allowed easy passage north to the Colorado River and southward into the Uncompahgre Valley until the railroad arrived in the area in the latter nineteenth century, the area known as Robidoux Bottoms had remained the primary fording place on the Gunnison River along the old path which later became the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail and then the Salt Lake Wagon Road.  History tells us that before the Spanish exploration of Western Colorado, the native inhabitants had a variety of routes for traveling on the Western Slope. With Spanish exploration those routes were utilized along with native guides, bringing explorers up from such colonial outposts as Santa Fe into our region. Rivera, exploring in the summer and fall of 1765 being the first in Western Colorado to travel along the western San Juan Mountains north into the Delta area. Rivera’s travels with the assistance of native guides would expose the Spanish to the many trails and topography of our region. These explorations would lay the foundation for individuals like Antione Robidoux to trap furs, host trappers, trade with the Utes prior to the Mexican War in 1846.

While seeking the Colorado River Juan Rivera and his company arrived at these bottoms and forded the Gunnison River in the fall of 1765 (Baker 2008, Hendricks, and Sargent 2011). During their trips of 1776 Father’s Dominguez and Escalante also arrived at the great Delta travel gate though they struck the river a few miles above the Robidoux Bottoms. Even to the present day this travel gateway has been used by nearly all travelers who wished to pass north and south up the western slope of Colorado. “Nearly all that we know about Robidoux’s old trading post comes from accounts left by such travelers. Robidoux clearly sited his enterprise at the most strategic travel gateway in the region.” Steven G. Baker, Uncompahgre Valley Ute project, Centuries Research, Inc. Montrose, CO.

The movement of trade goods and livestock over the Northern Branch during the Spanish, as well as the Mexican period provided the foundation for later American exploration starting with the Gunnison Expedition in 1853.

The Fort was officially certified as the first non-Federal Interpretive Center on the OST by the Bureau of Land Management and just recently NPS designated the Fort an official Certified Site on the OST.  The public is invited to attend the Back to the Old Spanish Trail field trip, Saturday, October 2nd, 9-12 noon.  Transportation will be provided by the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado.  Please plan to meet at the Fort no later than 9:00 am and returning no later than 12:00 noon. We will be using a School Bus, seating is limited to the first 46 folks that sign up.  Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. RSVP is required please call 970 874-8349.


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