History and Heritage

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Before written history, native American cultures, including Clovis and Folsom, hunted and gathered in the area 11,000 years ago. Spain claimed the area in the 1500’s and established land grants to attract settlers. However, clashes with Comanches left the valley largely unsettled for many years. Zebulon Pike, exploring the southern part of the Louisiana Purchase and after his discovery of Pike’s Peak, was awed by the view of the Sand Dunes (probably from Medano Pass) in 1807. Until Mexico’s liberation from Spain in 1821, Spain claimed the San Luis Valley. The 1850’s saw the first permanent settlements.

Gold and silver discoveries near Summitville in 1870 fueled the mining rush to the San Luis Valley. While other mining settlements quickly followed at Creede and Bonzana, the history of the San Luis Valley’s settlement was greatly influenced by the railroad, farming, ranching, and timber.

Just 2 years after Colorado became a state, a narrow-gauge train loaded with expectant settlers and their belongings stopped at a protected bend in the Rio Grande shaded by a grove of cottonwoods. In 1878 Alamosa – Spanish for cottonwood grove – was founded.

Trains delivered lumber and hardware and left with agricultural products. Over the next ten years rails were laid in all four directions and Alamosa became a veritable center of the San Luis Valley.

In 1921, Adams State College was founded as a teaching college and is now a bachelor- and master-degree granting institution.

With a population of around 16,000, Alamosa today offers majestic mountain views, the winding Rio Grande, clear skies, breathing room, abundant agriculture, a thriving economy, and two institutions of higher learning.

But perhaps you’d like to recapture the feel of a bygone era. Travel our rails or visit mining towns. From Medano Pass let your gaze wander from the sand dunes across the San Luis Valley to mountains and your view of natural beauty will be similar to Zebulon Pike’s 200 years ago.

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Alamosa Walking Tour

A stroll around Alamosa’s downtown reveals its history and small town charm. From red brick to pressed metal ornamentation and glazed colored tile, Alamosa is a study in ...
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Ft Garland Museum

Established in 1858, Fort Garland's primary purpose was as a base against attacks by Indians in an effort to protect the new settlers.  It was once under the comma ...
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Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway

Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway, translated, the name means "the ancient roads" - aptly named for its tour through 16th century Spanish territorial expansion at its n ...
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Luther Bean Museum at ASU

The Luther E Bean Museum features a beautiful collection of Native American pottery including pottery by Maria "Marie" Martinez, Acoma, and Santo Domingo Pueb ...
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San Luis Valley History Museum

The San Luis Valley Museum, located at 4th and Hunt in Alamosa, features displays of the diversified cultures and arts of the area.  Among the various displays in ...
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Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area

Discover traces of culture representing the rich heritage of the moradas, placitas, historic churches, and murals.  Traditions materialize through the art, weaving ...
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Upcoming Events

  • Thu, Jun 19 12pm
    The Alamosa PRCA Rodeo will have their High Noon Cattle Drive & Parade at 12:00PM on…

  • Wed, Jun4 8am
    See the best High School Athletes compete against one another in the 58thAnnual Colorado High School Coaches…

  • Sat, Jul 12 7am
    Pilots from all over the US gather at this annual event to showcase their vintage &…

  • Fri, Jun6 5pm
    The Summerfest on the Rio is our first festival of the summer, & is held in beautiful…

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