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Conference shines light on Old Spanish Trail

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Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc. photo Jack Pfertsh of Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc., records a cairn and trail. The collapsed cairn is located along the trail south of the turnoff to Escalante Canyon. Highway 50 is in the background. The

Two centuries of environmental change in western Colorado.Secrets of Kannah Creek. Archaeological finds on Cochetopa Pass. The North Branch: Digging Deeper to preserve and protect. Treacherous river crossings. The Ute Horse People. Reenactors on mules and horseback.

These are just a few of the topics and entertainment that will be covered at the 2016 Old Spanish Trail Association (OSTA) conference -- "Most Arduous...Least Respected" -- in Grand Junction July 29-30. Cost is $65 for OSTA members; $85 for non-OSTA members for both days and includes a reception Friday evening. The Saturday banquet is only $27 per person.

"We think that holding the conference in Grand Junction is perfect this year," said OSTA president Ashley Hall. "We're celebrating 20 years of public usage of the trail in Mesa County, the seven-mile segment, as well as the excellent work that is being done by archaeologists throughout western Colorado and preservationists at Fort Uncompahgre in Delta." He added that a grant secured by the National Park Service in partnership with Mesa County and OSTA from the National Park Foundation will add much-needed highway signage to both trailheads on Orchard Mesa and Whitewater as well as interpretive signs. This is the first time this national event has been held in Grand Junction since the trail was added to the National Historic Trail list in 2002.

The conference will also feature two field trips: Back to the Trail will celebrate the seven-mile section of the Old Spanish Trail between Whitewater and Orchard Mesa; and the preservation efforts at Las Colonias park, including a history of the nearby Colorado River crossing, which was called one of the most treacherous river crossings along the OST by early 19th century travelers.

Ute Indian storyteller Larry Cesspooch-Whitebelly will be the guest speaker at the banquet Saturday, July 30. A chuckwagon dinner Thursday, July 28, at Fort Uncompahgre in Delta, is also available as a "pre-conference" bonus; the cost is $25 per person.

The full schedule, as well as registration information, is at oldspanish

trail.org and comprehensive information about the Colorado trail is at ostcolorado.org.

The Old Spanish Trail was used in the 18th and 19th centuries as a trading, commerce, survey and exploration path, using a trail system that had been used by Native Americans for generations. The various routes led from Santa Fe to Los Angeles through six states. Colorado's North Branch stretched from the Four Corners area over Cochetopa Pass into present-day Montrose and Delta counties before entering Mesa County and crossing the Colorado River, then trending west into Utah.

For more information, call Vicki Felmlee, OSTA Colorado Director, 245-8585 or info@tcsmg.com.

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