The most significant number of Santa Fe Trail remains anywhere are found in the Fort Union Watrous area of New Mexico. The area was originally called La Junta de los Rios Mora y Sapello (the junction of the Mora and Sapello rivers) and simply known as La Junta. In this tree shaded valley, the intersection of the Cimarron and Mountain branches of the Trail occurred. Mexican traders sometimes halted here and waited until enough wagons had gathered to make a safe journey across the plains to Missouri.
Fort Union was established in 1851 for the protection of northern New Mexico and the Santa Fe Trail. It soon became the major quartermaster depot for the Southwest. Immense wagon trains carrying supplies for the military in the Southwest snaked over the plains to the depot at Fort Union. Trail ruts abound around the fort and weave through and around the remaining adobe structures. Here, one is able to stand in the ruts and follow their course through the fort property. From here one can look south to the La Junta valley and see at least three courses of ruts as they cross pasture land and head into Tiptonville and Watrous.
The present day La Junta Valley has changed little from the time when mules and oxen pulled wagons along the Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe. The most obvious intrusion, Interstate 25, is quickly lost once one gets into the countryside. In this land of wide open prairies and endless sky, visitors can return to a slower time of a hundred years ago and get a feel for the commerce of the prairies just by getting off the main roads.
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Larry & Carolyn
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