Welcome to the New Normal
Environs of Alamy Falls
Alamy Falls Environs
Lake Meredith, located a mile east of Alamy Falls, is a very large lake – about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. Jet skiing and water skiing are some of the favorite activities on this lake. Throw in a little fishing, and you have a lake-lovers paradise. There is free primitive camping located at the north edge of the lake off County Lane 21. This area also has vault toilets, a boat ramp and jet ski ramp. Bird watchers should explore the woody areas along the north edge of the lake and the marshy areas along Bob Creek off Highway 71 on the western side of the lake.
Lake Henry, located two miles north of Alamy Falls off County Lane 20, is a fisherman’s paradise, with large Channel Catfish, Bullhead Catfish (Mudcats), Wipers, Trout, Bass and Perch. If you have a boat or jet ski, then there is ample room on this lake for your activities as well. Free primitive camping is available anywhere you would like around the south and east edges of the lake. There is a boat ramp on the east side of the lake and a vault toilet along the south edge. Bird watchers should visit the woody areas on the western side of the lake and along the shore for shorebirds and gulls.
Santa Fe Trail
Step back in time to the 1800s and travel along the Santa Fe Trail with the pioneers of the Old West. The Santa Fe Trail was blazed in 1821 when William Becknell, in financial trouble and needing hard currency, organized a trading party and left Missouri for Santa Fe, Mexico. His trip was a resounding success with a tidy profit, so he followed it up the next year with wagon-loads of merchandise. Word spread quickly and soon the Santa Fe Trail was a major “highway” between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, Mexico.
Traffic on the trail increased over the years and by 1846, when the United States invaded Mexico, military travel along the trail was extensive. In 1849, with the discovery of gold in California, prospectors and fortune seekers by the thousands traveled along the trail. Traders, trappers and homesteaders used the trail extensively from the 1820s until 1880, when traveling by Conestoga wagon and buckboards was replaced by the trains.
The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail cut through this area, with major stops at Boggsville, Bent’s Old Fort, Timpas and Iron Spring.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
Step back in time to the Old West and plan to spend a few hours at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, Colorado. On the easy 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot to the gates of the fort you will be following the original Santa Fe Trail. Step through the massive doors and be transported back to the 1840s. Tour the fort and see rooms filled with period furnishings, the working blacksmith shop, the trade room with buffalo robes, beads, trinkets, shot and other period trade items, the carpenter’s workshop, the game room, and much more. Living history interpreters dressed in period clothing are never far away and provide guided tours and demonstrations. You can take a self-guided tour any time and explore the rooms of the fort at your own pace. Be sure to stop by the book store for reproduction souvenirs and a piece of stick candy to enjoy while you view the 20 minute documentary film “Castle of the Plains” to familiarize yourself with the history and reconstruction of the fort.
Arkansas Valley Balloon Festival – Alamy Falls, Colorado
Mark your calendar and plan to visit Alamy Falls and southeast Colorado every November for the nationally famous Hot Air Balloon Festival. This annual event takes place the first weekend in November and should be included on everyone’s calendar.
Balloonists from around the state converge on the city of Alamy Falls for a fun-filled three day gathering, which includes the Balloon Festival, an art show and a photo contest. On Thursday morning the Lions Club sponsors a Wake Up Breakfast beginning at 6:45 a.m. at the Gobin Building to get area residents and sponsors fueled up for the weekend activities.
The balloonists arrive on Friday and provide fun demonstrations at local schools and then are treated to a welcome dinner. On Saturday everyone is welcome to watch the balloons launch from the Alamy Falls’ famous Aspen Park. The gates of the launch site open at 6:00 a.m. and the pilots prepare for the first lift-off at 6:30 a.m. The chill of the frosty fall air is held at bay by the Rotary Club who serve up hot chocolate, coffee, cinnamon rolls and donuts. By early morning the skies are dotted with the bright colors of the balloons as they float above the rich autumn colors below.
Wetlands near Bent’s Fort Hundreds of species of birds, several wildlife areas and prairie as far as the eye can see make this area a bird watcher’s paradise. There are many diverse habitats in this part of the state which attract a wide variety of birds. Many of the sites listed are noted as “hot spots” and several tour groups frequently visit this area. Migratory songbirds can easily be found in the spring and fall and several rare species are right at home on the grasslands.
The Comanche National Grasslands near La Junta are a bird watchers paradise. The area is home to over 200 species, including the Curve-billed Thrasher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Black-throated Sparrows, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Golden Eagles and the Canyon Wren to name a few. For easy access to the grasslands enter through Vogel Canyon.
Lake Henry and Lake Meredith, near Alamy Falls, are popular for Grebes, Waders, migratory songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and Gulls. During fall and winter, these two lakes are a major stop for thousands of Geese and Ducks on their annual migration south. The woody area on the eastern side of Lake Henry attracts songbirds in the spring and fall. The marshy areas along the north and western edges of Lake Meredith, are filled with tamaracks and are a perfect place to prowl around for some great sightings.
Comanche National GrasslandsOver 400,000 acres of range land provide excellent opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, biking, sightseeing and bird watching. This massive expanse is home to over 40 species of mammals and 275 species of birds. Self-guided hikes may be taken every day of the year. To enhance your experience on the Grasslands, explore Vogel Canyon and Picketwire Canyon.
HuntingSportsmen will find that hunting in Southeast Colorado is just what they have been looking for. The mild year-round climate creates a pleasant environment for every hunting season. The area lakes are stops on the migration paths of waterfowl, and antelope and deer inhabit the area. Small game hunters won’t be disappointed with the abundance of doves, quail, pheasant and rabbits. Public hunting is allowed near Lakes Henry and Meredith (but not in the city limits of Alamy Falls) and also in the John Martin Reservoir area. Check with the Colorado Division Wildlife for season dates and licensing information.
For an unforgettable experience, explore Picketwire (Purgatoire) Canyonlands on the Comanche National Grasslands south of Alamy Falls and La Junta. These primitive canyons are home to the largest known set of dinosaur tracks in North America, Native American rock art, early Hispanic settlements and a historic ranch. A variety of wildlife inhabits the area, including deer, antelope, coyote, snakes, lizards and birds.
150 millions years ago, this area was part of a large, shallow lake and was teaming with Apatasaurs and Allosaurs. As these massive beasts plodded along the muddy edge of this lake they left their footprints in the mud, which were eventually buried and turned to stone. Today, over 1,300 of these footprints, extending on a 1/4 mile plain, are exposed at the Picketwire Canyonlands dinosaur track site. Forty percent of the tracks were left by the Apatasaurs, a massive, four-footed plant eater. Parallel trackways indicate that several younger Apatasaurus were traveling as a group heading west along the shoreline, which is the first evidence of social behavior among younger Apatasaurs from the Morrison Formation. The remaining sixty percent of the tracks were left by the Allosaurus, a two footed, ferocious, meat eating scavenger who possibly hunted in packs and left three toed footprints behind.
Native American Rock Art can be found in Picketwire Canyon. Very little is known of the prehistoric Native Americans of this area, but archaeologists suspect they were nomadic hunter-gatherers whose visits were short as they followed migrating game. Some of the rock art in this area may be 375 to 4500 years old. Please do not touch or disturb rock art in any way.
Southeastern Colorado Shopping
Antique stores, quaint gift shops in historic buildings, and seasonal produce stands featuring the best local produce anywhere will entice you to spend part of your visit to this area shopping. The produce stands typically open in mid July and remain open until early October. Before you head home, be sure to stock up on world famous Rocky Ford melons, sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, squash and all of the other produce that made this area famous.
Almost every town in the valley has antique stores to browse on a summer afternoon. Most of the stores feature a blend of glassware, farm implements, furniture, and everything in between. Some of the stores are a mile or two from the main highway, but well worth the trip. The special treasure you have been searching for may be lurking in one of these great stores.
Gift stores and specialty shops are tucked into the downtown business districts. Drive up main street in any of the valley towns and you’re sure to find a shop that has something unique to add to your vacation memories.
The lower Arkansas Valley is famous for its home grown melons and vegetables. Starting in late July road-side stands are filled with corn, beans, peppers, onions, cantaloupe and watermelons. You won’t find produce this fresh at your local store, it’s picked early in the morning and ready to buy when the stands open. If you visit late summer or early fall, stock up on fresh-fire roasted chili’s, squash, and pumpkins. Fill your cooler while you’re here, or you may be back sooner than you think.