If you love history, then there is a lot to love in this area! Along with our terrific historic areas of Bent's Old Fort and Boggsville, we have six fascinating museums with collections ranging from Native American artifacts to train memorabilia, and a little of everything in between. For thousands of years, Native Americans have called the this area home, including the Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Ute Tribes. Beginning in the 1820s, the pioneers of the West began visiting what would eventually become Southeast Colorado, and settlement began in the 1830s. Some of our more famous visitors and settlers include the Bent Brothers on the Santa Fe Trail, Kit Carson, Clay Allison, Bat Masterson, and many other famous (and a few notorious) Western characters. Beginning in the 1870s, the Burlington Northern, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and Kansas Pacific Railroads played major roles in this area.
These museums feature exhibits chronicling the settlement and expansion of the West, with a focus on their individual towns. Some of these museums are open only during the summer, with advance reservations required during the off-season of mid fall to late spring. Please plan your trip and call ahead if you need to schedule an appointment or have questions.
Located in the restored Crowley School House, the Crowley Heritage Center and Museum features the history of Crowley County, including displays of the evolution of farming and ranching in the area, history of the old country schools, photographs and histories of early residents and antique kitchen items.
Self-guided tours are available with listening stations, so you can browse at your own pace. The staff is very knowledgeable about the history of the area and will be happy to answer any questions. The museum holds special events at various times of the year, so check the Events Calendar for more information.
In 1887 Professor O. S. Fowler filed the plat for the Fowler Town and Development in what was then Bent County. Fowler intended to develop a health colony, growing fruits and vegetables irrigated by the Arkansas River and raising “pure-fed” livestock. By 1889, Otero County was carved out of Bent County and the town of Fowler was incorporated October 3, 1900. Businesses, school and churches flourished in the area.
The collection at the Fowler Museum and Historical Society centers on early day inhabitants including artifacts from the earliest Native American peoples, articles from typical pioneer homesteads, farm implements, pioneer schools and general 20th century and military memorabilia.
The volunteers are a wealth of information and self guided tours allow you to browse at your own pace.
Las Animas was one of the first towns in this area, and is on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1873, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built it's tracks to an area known as West Las Animas and the settlement of the area began. Due to it's close proximity to Fort Lyon and Boggsville, Las Animas was the hub of Bent County. Famous visitors to the area include the frontier scout Kit Carson and gunfighter Clay Allison, who killed a deputy sheriff of Las Animas in 1877.
Housed in a building which was built in 1898, the John W. Rawlings Heritage Center & Museum shouldn't be missed by history buffs visiting Las Animas. Exhibits of early 1900’s storefronts including a post office, barber shop, jewelry store, candy shop and the Bent County Bank. Additional exhibits feature information about John W. and Dorothy Hoag Rawlings, Kit Carson, Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, actor Ken Curtis (Festus from Gunsmoke), Native Americans, area farming and ranching, local railroad history and much more. The 2nd floor contains the Grand Hall, kitchenette and heritage library. Take a break in Bell Park behind the museum and shop at the Old Trail Gallery & store in the museum.
Located in La Junta, the Koshare Indian Museum houses a world-class collection of Native American art and artifacts, from ancient to famous modern artists. The massive collection includes a wide variety of artifacts including baskets, pottery, weapons, jewelry, sculpture, textiles, clothing and feather bonnets. The collection focuses on the Plains and Pueblo tribes who inhabited the Great Plains and Southwestern United States. Visit in June or July and you can watch a performance of the world-famous Koshare Indian Dancers (see Events Calendar). Guided tours are available and discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more.
Each month the Koshare Indian Museum presents a featured guest artist who brings examples of their work and does live demonstrations. Each artist donates a piece of art that will be auctioned during the Winter Ceremonials.
If you would like to shop for some great works by modern artists, then the Museum Gift Shop is not to be missed. Whether you want kachinas, sand, oil and watercolor paintings, blankets, pottery, replica arrowheads, jewelry or anything in between you can find it at the gift shop.
This museum is home to a large collection of old west artifacts as well as historical items relating to Otero County. Comprised of several buildings, one of which is on the National Register of Historic Place, this must-see stop will really take you back in time. Major exhibits include a transportation exhibit with an original 1867 Overland Stage, and a railroad exhibit focusing on on the A.T. & S. F. Railroad and the Kansas Pacific Railroads.
There are literally thousands of items, including a collection of moustache cups, Wedgwood Jasperware, bread plates, beer steins and other fine glassware items, the organ from the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, a pre-Civil War loom, cameras, phonographs, clocks, a stocked 1910 era grocery store and numerous other items. Each group is given a personalized guided tour that lasts about 1 hour.
This museum features the history of Rocky Ford, the "Melon Capital of the World". The famous frontier scout Kit Carson is credited with naming a rocky crossing of the Arkansas River as Rocky Ford, and the area was inhabited in 1876 after the Santa Fe Railroad built through this area on it's way to Pueblo. The town of Rocky Ford was incorporated in 1887 and the first mayor was George W. Swink, a prominent farmer and businessman in the area. The Rocky Ford Museum follows the history of Rocky Ford from it's founding through the 20th century. Featured exhibits include a history of the Arkansas Valley Fair, which is the oldest fair in the state, and, due to it's importance to this area, agricultural history including the world famous melons and beet sugar industry.
The museum is housed in the fabulous Carnegie Library which was built in 1908 and converted to a museum in 1976. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is worth the stop by itself.