Your journey starts in Pueblo, just 40 miles north of the Byway, for a good introduction into Southwestern frontier culture. After exploring Pueblo for a day, on Day Two, you’ll be on your way to Walsenburg, where Fred Walsen opened the first coal mine in the area, which was later complemented by longhorn cattle from Texas, starting ranching industry in the region and also visit La Veta, before moving on to Trinidad for a night’s stay, ready to explore the remainder of the Byway in the morning.
When Colonel John Francisco arrived in the Cuchara Valley, legend has it that he declared “this is paradise enough for me” and chose to settle down. He built a four-sided fort, resembling a Spanish Plaza in 1862 to protect from danger. Today, that fort is the Francisco Fort Museum, the oldest surviving adobe fort in Colorado. Exhibits feature artifacts from the entire region, including Native American cultures, the Hispanic legacy, Anglo settlement, ranching, blacksmithing, a log school house, a coal mining museum, weapons, pioneer artifacts, adobe ovens, wagons, saddles, clothing and a saloon from La Veta’s old Main Street, complete with the bullet scarred bar owned by Bob Ford after he shot Jesse James. You’ll leave with an appreciation for the area’s culture which combines indigenous peoples, Spanish explorers, soldiers, Hispanic settlers, farmers, ranchers, miners and merchants.
Stop at the delightful Museum of Friends, 6,000 square feet filled with over 600 pieces of contemporary art by Brendt and Maria Berger and their artist friends. New pieces are continually added.
With over 100 coal mining camps in Huerfano County at one point, there were constant battles between the miners and the mine operators. At 80 years old, famous workers rights fighter, Mother Jones came to Colorado to help the colliers during a strike, only to be jailed in Walsenburg. After release, she headed to Washington DC to testify about the deplorable conditions the miners endured. The Walsenburg Mining Museum tells the stories of the miners, displays artifacts from their lives, and has created a series of dioramas depicting mining life.
Located on the site of the original fort, El Pueblo History Museum replicates an 1840s adobe trading post and plaza. Artifacts excavated on the site are on display and exhibits illustrate the region’s historic and ongoing collection of cultures, ethnicities, landscapes, industries, religions and identities, a fascinating historic panorama in all.
Enjoy a wide variety of art in seven galleries and working studios of La Veta’s resident artists, including Shalawalla Gallery, Gift Shop and School, internationally known for batik, La Veta Gallery On Main, with an extensive collection of ceramics, jewelry, fiber, wood and paper works, Space, which displays changing exhibits year around, La Veta Mercantile, gifts and jewelry, Kathy Hill Studio, local artist who paints scenery and wildlife in the valley, The Painted Horse Gallery and Studio, featuring hand made art, jewelry, knives, teas, gifts and more, and Parkside Gallery of Wood Art, with woodworking, furniture and sculpture.
The exhibits at Pueblo Heritage Museum concentrate on interpretation of the ethnic heritage of Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado’s past in all its multicultural perspectives. Items range from Lucky the Horse, the Pueblo Dodgers, and Apishapa Rock Art, to the footprints of an Allosaurus and the wide range of languages spoken by the area’s settlers. Small group walking tours on a one-mile route through the Union Avenue District ntroduce you to the fascinating and varied history of this part of the city.