Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site

Large adobe fort with American flag flying above and a covered wagon, tepee, and path in front of it
View of Bent's Old Fort from the North.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

For much of its 16-year history, Bent’s Fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original adobe fort in 1833 for trade with local Native American tribes and trappers for buffalo robes. Situated along the northern bank of the Arkansas river in what is now southeastern Colorado, the fort quickly became the center of the expanding holdings of Bent, St. Vrain & Company. Soon, it was also an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail’s mountain route and a center for commercial, social, military, and cultural exchange. 

The fort brought together trappers from the southern Rocky Mountains, Anglo-American travelers from Missouri and the east, Hispanic traders from Mexico, and Native Americans, primarily from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa Tribes. In addition to trading prospects, the fort also provided weary travelers, such as those following the Santa Fe Trail, with a place to get needed supplies and rest. During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny's "Army of the West." Disasters and disease caused the fort's abandonment in 1849.

Although the original fort no longer stands, at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site the fort has been reconstructed and is open to the public. The site preserves the resources associated with the Bent–St. Vrain trading empire and provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the trading post’s complex history. During the peak visitor season and special events, period clothed interpreters will aid visitors in their exploration by recreating the sights, sounds, and smells of the past.

After your visit, if you are heading West, you have the unique opportunity to stop at Comanche National Grassland and retrace a piece of the Santa Fe Trail at the Sierra Vista Interpretive Site. While you are here, visit Iron Spring, an important water stop for Santa Fe Trail travelers. East of Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, you can visit historic Lamar and Boggsville Historic Site.  

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Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Last updated: February 2, 2022