The city of La Junta is one of many Colorado tourist attractions. Locals as well as those from out of town can enjoy the numerous sites and sounds of our beloved city. If you are ready for a rugged or mild adventure on foot, there are wide open places for you to explore. If a stroll is what you are looking for, there are a variety of local natural wonders, grasslands, canyons and wildlife areas. If you enjoy exercising your mind or stimulating your curiosity, there are a variety of local historic sites and museums to choose from. La Junta is a place of undiscovered wonders. We welcome you to come learn more about our culture and our land.
La Junta has is home to two premier museums; Both offer extensive collections with an emphasis on local history and Native American art. If you are visiting Colorado for tourist attractions, you found your first stop in La Junta at the Otero Museum and Koshare Kiva and Indian Museum.
The Otero Museum opened its doors in 1984 in response to the need to chronicle the fascinating history of La Junta and the surrounding area. Since its inception the museum has acquired an extensive collection of local artifacts, original buildings and historic pictures.
Much of this material has been donated to the museum from local residents and represents a true interpretation of life in early day La Junta from the pioneer days, the railroad hey-day, and local businesses that shaped the development of the town. The preservation of La Junta’s history continues today through the dedication of volunteers who are striving to assemble informative and educational exhibits for the serious historian and casual visitor alike.
The Koshare Indian Museum began as a labor of love of J.F. “Buck” Burshears and Boy Scout Troop 232 of La Junta in 1933. Today the Koshare Indian Museum now houses an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts; considered by many to be one of the finest collections in the world. The “Kiva” as it is called is located on the Otero Junior College campus and is unique in the fact that it was entirely built through the efforts of “Buck” and his Boy Scouts in 1949.
The Kiva is a registered state historic site of the Colorado Historical society. The museum is also the home of the Koshare Indian Dancers of Boy Scout Troop 232 and Venturing Crew 230 of the Rocky Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America. They have been performing their interpretive Native American dance for over 65 years.
The La Junta Industrial Park is home to the La Junta Raceway and is used by various race-car clubs for exciting oval track racing. The track hosts groups like Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing (RMVR), Sports Car Club of America (SSCA), Alpine Porsche Club (APC), National Automotive Sports Association (NASA) and the Mercedes Club (MC). These races are open to the public and most admission is free.
The primary purpose of the Grasslands is the responsible management of 419,495 acres of range lands and the wildlife management of approximately 275 different species of birds that migrate through or live here. In addition, there are about forty different species of reptiles, nine amphibians, and eleven fish in the grasslands. Lion, bear, antelope, fox, and bobcat are among the mammals that inhabit the more remote regions.
Located just 20 miles from La Junta, the canyon is open to the public, though no motorized vehicles are allowed in the canyon except for guided tours led by Comanche National Grassland rangers. Trail heads on the mesa above the canyon offer access for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Picketwire Canyon contains one of the largest dinosaur track beds in the world, ruins of an old Mexican mission and settlement, Native American Rock Art, and an early 19th century ranch now preserved by the Comanche National Grassland.
One of our main Colorado tourist attractions is our dinosaur Dinosaur Tracks. Along the Purgatory River tracks from dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus), Stegosaurus, and Allousaurus are where these famous prints can be found. The area has come under serious scientific investigation in recent years. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, the dinosaur tracks were a well-guarded secret until letters in Life Magazine and Scientific American in 1935 reported the existence of dinosaur track ways in the Purgatory Valley, called Rio De Las Animas Pedidas or “River of Lost Souls.” The track site is considered to be the largest continuously mapped site in North America, with over 1,300 footprints in four different layers of rock.
Just a short drive from La Junta, beautiful Vogel Canyon is always a popular destination because it has something for everybody – from a short hike to a quiet picnic. The canyon is a tributary of the Purgatory River and offers a varied habit from short grass prairies to the pinion-juniper ecosystem. Two permanent springs located at the bottom of the canyon support a variety of wildlife. Native Americans lived in the canyon 300-800 years ago and left rock art visible on the canyon walls. There are historic ruins of an old stage station and numerous homesteads to be found in the canyon. Walls constructed of native stone from the heavy 19th century ranching days can be found throughout the canyon. Four hiking trails take you to the canyon bottom and mesa top. The park provides picnic grounds and hiking trails with a variety of difficulty and length. Hikers must beware of rattlesnakes and scorpions, and pack appropriate dress for late afternoon showers.
The roots of our city’s economic development can be traced to The Santa Fe Trail. La Junta is located on the heart of the Mountain Branch of the Old Santa Fe Trail. Starting in Las Animas and continuing through La Junta on your way to Trinidad you can easily travel and explore the old trail by car. History is evident all throughout the area at Boggsville in Las Animas, Bent’s Fort in La Junta, and along Highway 350 to Trinidad.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is located just 5 miles from La Junta and over 150 years back in time. This reconstructed trading post located on the Santa Fe Trail was the last United States outpost before crossing the Arkansas River and entering Mexico. It became the most important frontier hub during the era of “Manifest Destiny” for a growing young country. American trade and influence radiated from here south into Mexico, west into the Great Basin and north to southern Wyoming. The Fort was originally built in 1833-34 by brothers Charles and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain for the Native American fur trade but soon became an important stop along the Santa Fe Trail. In its hey-day it was known as the only civilization between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, Mexico. This early nineteenth century fort is filled with period furnishings and hosts historic re-enactors throughout the year during several special events.
Another historic part of our city and one of the popular Colorado tourist attractions is Boggsville which is unique to this region as the only non-military settlement along the Santa Fe Trail. The small settlement is located on the Purgatory River two miles south of present day Las Animas. Boggsville was founded in 1862 by Thomas O. Boggs, his wife Rumalda Luna Bent (a stepdaughter of Charles Bent), L.A. Allen and Charles Ritc. In 1867, the noted frontiersman, Kit Carson, moved to Boggsville. This was his last home before his death in 1868 at Ft. Lyon. During its short lifespan from 1867 through 1873 when the railroad arrived, Boggsville was important as a center for agriculture, government, commerce and culture. In 1985, the site was acquired by the Pioneer Historical Society of Bent County. The site is currently being restored to its former glory. The restored and reconstructed buildings already completed offer a personal experience of life on the frontier for the visitor.
U.S. Highway 50 from the Kansas border through La Junta and U.S. Highway 350 from La Junta to Trinidad follows the “Mountain Route” of the Santa Fe Trail. Faint traces of the old wagon ruts can still be seen just outside of La Junta and along Highway 350 at various locations.
Southeast Colorado is one of the best kept secrets of the state. Free from the traffic of other popular Colorado tourist attractions, outdoor enthusiasts will find miles of trails and rural roads just right for hiking, biking or plain exploring – all within minutes of the city of La Junta. The area abounds with natural beauty. From the red hued cliffs and steep bluffs of the Purgatory River to the open high plains of Comanche National Grassland you can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and slow down a bit. Bird watching expeditions, wild flower excursions, or historic journeys back in time are yours – all within a short distance from La Junta.
John Martin and Lake Hasty are located off Highway 50 near Hasty. John Martin Reservoir State Park is about 35 miles east of La Junta, this massive lake was created by the damming of the Arkansas River in the 1930s. The length of the dam is 2.6 miles with a height of 118 feet. Its discharge capacity is 639,200 feet with a drainage area of 18,913 square miles.
Today the lake is open for boating and skiing, as well as fishing for bass, crappie and trout. Other popular boating and fishing locations within a short drive of La Junta include Lake Henry and Meredith, the Arkansas River and several small ponds.
The John Martin Reservoir provides uncrowded boating, water skiing, and spectacular conditions for a wide variety of wind water sports. The mild Southeastern Colorado weather provides plenty of great days throughout the year. Anglers from shore or boat catch walleye, saugeye, bass, wiper, crappie, perch, and catfish.
Over 300 species of birds inhabit the area around La Junta. Quail, pheasant, dove, bald eagle, golden eagle, ducks, geese and hawks, lesser prairie chickens and longbill curlew are just a few of the species to be found by astute bird watchers. From the short grass prairies and rugged canyons south of town to the Arkansas River basin on the north edge of town popular bird watching spots are just minutes away.
If you are interested in starting, relocating, or growing your business in La Junta, Colorado, please contact us today.