Bent's Old Fort in Colorado is an 1840's adobe fur trading post that has been turned into a National Historic Site located on the Santa Fe Trail. In its original form, traders, travelers, trappers, and Indian tribes would meet to peacefully negotiate trades. These days, the post recreates the environment of the old days with tours, events, and demonstrations. There are actors in period clothing offering guided tours and living history demos. It is also possible to do some exploration on your own.
Kids will love Bent's Old Fort, and there are activities designed especially for kids ages 7-11 years old. Choose from hands-on adventures like the work of soldiers, cooks, trappers, craftsman, or traders. There are two events that give kids a special chance to step back in time. The Kid's Quarters split kids into groups based on the trade they would like to try. Adults perform living history demonstrations and together they recreate the living conditions of this trading post. Children must apply to participate, so view the website for details. The Junior Ranger Program allows kids to complete Bent's Old Fort " Journey Through Time brochure while viewing a 20-minute documentary film and experiencing a guided tour.
Teachers will love a trip to Bent's Old Fort with their class and the lessons at the Fort reinforce "... Colorado State teaching standards for history providing fine examples of historical relationships and inquiry, societal changes, economic systems, and social processes and how they shaped populations.'' This was the only place on the Santa Fe Trail where travelers could repair their wagons from damage and restock food and supplies. It usually took about two months to journey from Missouri with an ox drawn wagon, so by the time travelers made it to Bent's, they were in need of a break. From Bent's it was another month's journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since the Fort became a destination for traders and trappers to today, the Billiard Room has been a popular hangout in the fort.
The natural resources on and surrounding the grounds of the fort enable visitors to learn about the rewards and challenges of America's westward expansion. The park is on a series of low benches along the Arkansas River. The elevation is 4,035 feet and is filled with grass prairie that includes grama and buffalo grasses. Vegetation in the area includes a variety of native plants impacted by exotics and grassland recovering from being used for agricultural purposes.
The park is open year round and requires a quarter mile walk from where you park to the center of the post. There is a shuttle available. The Trade Goods and Book Store features traditional trade items like flint stone, powder horns, and copper wood cups, as well as films, shells, blankets, pouches, Dutch ovens, and historical cook books. Park admissions is $3 for adults and $2 for children. Group and annual rates are available.
For a unique historical experience about westward expansion, plan a trip to Bent's Old National Historic Site.