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Discover traces of culture representing the rich heritage of the moradas, placitas, historic churches, and murals. Traditions materialize through the art, weaving, and cooking practices that stretch back in time hundreds of years. The unique architecture of living quarters and plazas built of adobe surrounded by jackal fences can still be found today.
For centuries, native peoples have lived in the three counties—Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla—that comprise the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Mt. Blanca, rising 14,345 feet above the valley, was given the name Sisnaajini by the Dine (Navajo) people and is considered a sacred landmark. Evidence of Ute, Apache, Tiwa, Tewa, Comanche, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes can be found today in petroglyphs and pictographs that narrate the stories of their culture.
Abundant natural resources of fertile soil, flowing water, dense forests, and scenic beauty such as the Great Sand Dunes and towering mountain ranges attracted early settlers in their quest for new homes.
Along the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway sits some of Colorado's earliest settlements. The scenic drive takes travelers through the heart of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Visit places like Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, founded in 1858, the oldest parish in Colorado. Explore the quarters of Fort Garland Museum, once commanded by Kit Carson in 1866 and 1867.
San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, is the home of the first irrigation ditches used by an agrarian society. The Guadalupe Land Grant and Sangre de Cristo Land Grant gave ranchers and farmers the land they needed to raise cattle, sheep, and crops. They viewed this land as the foundation to build their communities and future generations.
Puffing their way across the San Luis Valley, the first steam engines emerged after the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad built a trestle bridge across the Rio Grande River. Waves of settlers increased and towns emerged. Families sought to make a new life for themselves, bringing their religious beliefs with them. Their traditions and cultures can still be found today in close-knit communities throughout the area. Agriculture thrived and persists today with the production of potatoes, alfalfa, lettuce, and wheat crops.
Experience the history today with two scenic railways. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad takes you on a breathtaking journey through the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the longest and highest Narrow Gauge Railroad in America spanning 64 miles from Antonito to Chama.
For more information on the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, visit their website at www.sdcnha.org.