Old Forts of the American West

As settlers moved west in the 19th century, forts were established for a variety of reasons. Some were built on the basis of anticipated use for protection, others as a way to protect commerce along the trails. Contrary to popular belief, however, most American west forts weren’t built to protect the settlers from Indians. They were instead built as a way to maintain peace across tribes, as well as between American Indians and emigrants.

While some of the original forts are long gone, others continue to stand; some restored, some in ruins and others still currently serving as active posts. A handful of forts remain in Colorado to this day, giving us a glimpse into what life was like for Coloradans during the nation’s westward expansion.

William and Charles Bent, along with their partner Ceran St. Vrain, built Bent’s Old Fort in 1833 as a point of commerce for people living on the plains of the region. It quickly became a center for cultural interaction between American settlers, Mexicans and American Indians. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site has since become a must-see attraction in Colorado.

Photo: Bill Johnson

Photo: Bill Johnson

Today, you can visit Bent’s Old Fort and take a walk through the rooms and corridors to visualize what life was like in an old trading post. Employees recreate the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events.

You can also visit The Fort, the first replica of Bent’s Old Fort, which offers historic tours and trunk shows year round to give guests a glimpse into life at Bent’s Fort. Tours and trunk shows are led by Tesoro Cultural Center costumed interpreters.

Other remaining forts in Colorado include Fort Uncompahgre, El Pueblo Fort, Fort Vasquez, Fort Garland and Fort Morgan.

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