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Fort Garland Museum, Fort Garland

(4.7/5 based on 50+ reviews on the web)
Western expansion fueled the need for frontier forts. The primary purpose of these forts was to keep the peace between settlers and indigenous people.

In 1852 the U.S. government saw the need for a military presence in the San Luis Valley and built Fort Massachusetts, the area's first stronghold. It soon became clear that the location of Fort Massachusetts was not strategically practical. It was vulnerable to attack from higher ground and it was too far from the settlers it was intended to protect. Brig. Gen. John Garland issued orders for a new post to be built 6 miles south between Ute and Sangre de Cristo creeks.

The fort is built of adobe or mud bricks, the local building material at the time. Exterior walls were plastered with mud, interior walls were plastered with mud and lime. Soldiers and local adobe skilled laborers built the fort under the direction of Charles Autobees. The flat roofs were constructed using large log beams called vigas andwith wood planks on top and then covered with dirt. It was completed in June of 1858, the flag was lowered at Ft. Massachusetts and Capt. Duncan marched his men to the new site where the flag was hoisted to the top of the new flagpole.

In 1861, Colorado Volunteers were training at Fort Garland. In March of 1862, they trekked through harsh winter conditions to join the New Mexico Volunteers, and the combined forces met the Confederates at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The Union soldiers thwarted General Sibley's efforts to bring the Civil War to the far West.

After the Civil War, from 1866 to 1867, Christopher "Kit" Carson commanded the New Mexico Volunteers at Fort Garland. Drawing on his knowledge of American Indian languages and culture, he aided Chief Ouray and other Ute leaders in teh negotiations that created a Ute Reservation.

African-American cavalry men, the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" distinguished themselves at Fort Garland between 1876 and 1879.

Fort Garland was in use for 25 years, a long time for a frontier fort. The coming of the railroad and the removal of American Indians brought Fort Garland's 25 years of service to an end in 1883.

Five of the twenty-two original buildings at Fort Garland are still standing. Since the 1990s archaeological research has been carried out at the fort to determine the footprints of the original buildings.

The museum today is run by History Colorado.

Summer Hours:

March-November

Monday-Sunday

9am- 5pm

Winter Hours:

November 1st-March 1st

Open Wednesday-Sunday.

10am - 4pm

Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Closed: January and February.

A regional museum of History Colorado.
Fort Garland Museum is just one of the many highlights you can arrange to see using our international travel planner, Fort Garland Edition.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Worth stopping to see if you are a history buff. Tour is self-guided and only takes an hour at the most. Well preserved and displays are explained in just enough detail. 
  • If you are headed to Great Sand Dunes NP stop by this little gem of a museum from Denver via Walsenburg.Charity behind the counter was a wealth of information and kindness. So worth it. 
  • Happened to come along this fort and happy we did. For a small fee, one can learn about the history of the soldiers that protected the western communities. The museum is very well done with authentic ...  more »
Google
  • This is a very important fort in the story of westward expansionism. Many original adobe buildings chock full of artifacts. This was an important union fort in the civil war. In 1858 it was the middle of nowhere...still is. The gift shop has local jams and jellies native American crafts and a bookstore to satisfy any western bibliophile. If you are a Ghostbusters you are in for a real treat!
  • Really clean, nice museum
  • Love it! very much historical value and an all around awesome place.