Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway
A typical summer scene between Las Animas and La Junta along the Santa Fe Trail
On a good day you can still see the wagon ruts left by countless wagons travelling the Santa Fe Trail. This byway follows the old route of the Mountain Branch, passing by Bent's Old Fort and Trinidad on its' way up and over Raton Pass to New Mexico. This area was one of the last strongholds of the Plains Indians and one of the first toe-holds of the Anglo-American pioneers. The cultural legacies of this historic trade route are still pretty distinct.
The Santa Fe Trail, Expanded
The aerial photo to the left is from the National Park Service display at Iron Spring ("You Are Here"), a watering hole along the Santa Fe Trail just north of Timpas in southern Otero County and about a mile east of US Highway 350. While the spring always had water, that water had a pretty heavy dose of iron in it.
The arrows are pointing to places where the old wagon wheel ruts have become water courses. These tracks in the ground have become so obvious because of the vegetation that has grown up taking advantage of the incremental increase and concentration of available surface water. According to the signage, this photo was taken in the 1930's, a time when this whole area was in the grip of a severe drought for several years. As you can see from the distribution of arrows, there were many different wagon trains over the years and they didn't all follow the same route.
This is what Iron Spring looks like on the ground
Santa Fe Trail Scenic Byway area map (Colorado area)