“At Fort Uncompahgre on the Old Spanish Trail (a replica of the original Fort) everything is authentic from the dirt floors to the piles of furs and animals hides displayed here.”
That’s the main point that experts at Fort Uncompahgre in Delta would like the community to know. It’s the first thing they say to visitors on its website, fortuncompahgre.org.
The fort, which can be found in the 400 block of Palmer Street in the City of Delta, out near Bill Heddles Recreation Center, is run by the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado (IAWC). For IAWC Executive Director Chris Miller, Fort Uncompahgre is no monotonous 9-5 job.
“I have been so passionately involved in this project for a long time, since 1989 when they bought the fort online and I was working for the City of Delta,” Miller said. “I kept thinking it’s so important that we’re at a time right now where history is under attack.”
Miller explained that the Fort Uncompahgre trading post was the pinnacle of Delta County at one point. This was during a time beginning in the late 1820s, when the area was a hub for trails coming north out of the San Juan River Basin in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico, meeting the north branch of the Old Spanish Trail.
The Old Spanish Trail itself was a pack route that traveled east and west from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California.
According to the fort’s website, “The Fort remained in operation until the mid-1840’s before being attacked by a band of Ute Indians.”
“To this day, we’re still benefiting from that location,” Miller said. “The Ute Indians loved this station. It was the warmest place in the wintertime and it was not supposed to get snow.”
Miller explained that the trading post itself was built by Antione Robidoux. The area was known as Robidoux Bottoms. What had been used as a center of the county for a relatively short period of time was later admired for a much longer period.
“For hundreds of years, people have adored this station,” Miller said. “I think the general public would be interested about the history and why this basin was chosen.”
Due to its age and the work put into its historical preservation by Miller and IAWC, the location is equipped with an abundance of visitor information, which includes brochures for related relics along the Old Spanish Trail.
The booklet “Welcome to Fort Uncompahgre” is administered by IAWC and guides visitors through Fort Uncompahgre, explaining each aspect as they go along.
It first asks them to enter through the visitor center, book store and information center before giving step-by-step directions through the site, prompting them to take a closer look at different relics, which are numerically listed in the guide.
The booklet’s tour begins with the Adobe oven, which resembles a stone beehive of sorts. It was formally known as an horno in Spanish. The design allegedly dates back to 1400 B.C.
The booklet alone will guide visitors through this old-fashioned and cultural way of life, ending with additional references and information.
Visitors can also view a map of Fort Uncompahgre, as well as a map of the Old Spanish Trail.
“This is the Uncompahgre Valley and this is one of the three great gateways into this area between the continental divide and the Colorado River,” Miller said. “It was so [important] to these Indians, a long time before it was called the Old Spanish Trail, it was called the Old Indian Trail.”
Miller is brimming with information on the area, as she previously stated that it is a passion project of hers, and she hopes that members of the public will make an effort to learn about the backstory and heritage of the area.
Reporter’s note: The DCI will report further on Fort Uncompahgre and the Old Spanish Trail heritage in the coming weeks.