Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

A large stucco building in a green field, with a dirt path leading to it. There is a teepee in the front and a chuckwagon to the side.
Bent’s Old Fort Trading Post on the Santa Fe Trail.

NPS Photo.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site features a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail where traders, trappers, travelers, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes came together in peaceful terms for trade. Today, living historians recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the past with guided tours, demonstrations and special events.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site is situated on a series of low benches along the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado. As local prairies were transformed into crop lands, most of the native plant species were lost in the area which is now the park. Today, there are remnants of riparian grassland species present. Work continues to restore native prairie plant communities. The animal life at Bent's Old Fort is typical of both semi-desert prairie and riparian habitat. To date ninety-nine species of birds, twenty species of mammals, and ten species of reptiles and amphibians have been identified at the site.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2015

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2015. National Park Service staff chose thirteen resource topics that were of greatest management concern to be evaluated in this assessment:

- Viewshed

- Air quality

- Night sky

- Geology

- Soundscape

- Surface water

- Groundwater

- Landbirds

- Riparian habitat

- Prairie dogs

- Grasslands

- Vertebrates/Fish

- Invasive plants

The assessment showed three resources in good condition (geology, riparian habitats, and breeding landbirds);, seven resources with a condition of moderate concern (viewshed, night sky, soundscape, air quality, groundwater, grasslands, and exotic plants), two resources with a condition of significant concern (surface water and prairie dogs), and one resource that was not given a condition rating due to lack of current data (fish). The site and surrounding area have been affected by hunting, grazing, cultivation, water diversion, development, introduction of non-native species, and extirpation of native species such as bison. Climate change, natural disturbance regimes, changing hydrologic patterns and the spread of exotic species are all issues that Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site faces, and managers must consider for resource planning in the future.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: February 25, 2022


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