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Fort Garland Museum, Fort Garland

Categories: Specialty Museums, Museums
Inspirock Rating:
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:



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.
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  • 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 ...  read more »
  • This is a gem of a museum hidden in the SanLuis Valley. It consistently improves it's offerings by brining in different shows and classes. 
  • I love history and this is very historical. The museum includes many replicas of the civil war era in the area. 
  • Love it! very much historical value and an all around awesome place.