From the East
Take U.S. Highway 50 west from Lamar approximately 20 miles to Hasty. Turn south on School Street and proceed approximately 2 miles. The Visitor Center is on the right as the road curves to the east.
From the West
Take U.S. Highway 50 east from La Junta to Las Animas, approximately 20 miles. Proceed east through Las Animas to Hasty, approximately 16 miles. Turn south on School Street and proceed approximately 2 miles. The Visitor Center is on the right as the road curves to the east.
The Arkansas Valley offers a variety of water sports at various lakes. Options include boating, sail boating, water skiing, and wind surfing. Warm water fishing is available in the area's lakes and reservoirs. Trout is stocked in Holbrook and Ordway reservoirs.
For thousands of years before Euro-American expeditions in the west, numerous Native American groups lived on the Great Plains. Many wintered in the Arkansas River valley, especially in the "Big Timbers", an area historically covered with large cottonwood trees, located downstream of the dam. With shelter, water and abundant food, the valley provided good camping.
John Martin Reservoir State Park, in Hasty, Colorado has a retail store featuring John Martin Reservoir State Park clothing and gift items, field guides and other books, boat safety supplies, personal sundries, drinks, and snacks. The John Martin Visitor Center also features nature displays and mounts of geese, duck, pheasant and deer. The John Martin Visitor Center offers visitors and locals a fascinating and engaging stop on their way into the park.
Before the thirteen colonies were established, Spanish explorers venture into the Great Plains in the 1500s. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the earliest documented American expedition through the valley was that of Lt. Zebulon Pike in 1806. In the immediate vicinity of the Project area, Pike first reported the sighting of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. The Lewis and Clark, Pike, Long, and Fremont expeditions gave rise to the creation of the U. S. Army Topographical Engineers. These schooled geographers were the first scientists to chronicle the West and were a precursor to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The map below is a portion of the map documenting the route of Lt. Zebulon Pike's 1806 expedition through present day John Martin Reservoir. Note the spelling of the "Arkansaw" River! Notes on the map are barely readable and I was able to discern the following:
1. Here the Mountains are first seen.
2. Bottom- between this fork & main River.
3. Broken with small Ravines & Creeks.
4. Cotton Wood becomes frequent.
5. The whole of this Stretch is...both sides of the River by extensive...not a stick of timber except a few clumps of Cotton Wood.
6. This Stretch of the River is Curved...
7. Innumerable Herds of Buffaloes. ...
Early explorers, fur trappers, and the 1821 Mexican independence from Spain led to the opening of the Santa Fe Trail trade. Bent's Old Fort was the most renowned landmark on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. Established about 1833 by Ceran St. Vrain and Charles and William Bent, it served as a non-military post and center for the Mexican and Great Plains trade. The Santa Fe Trail carried many immigrants west along the river valley leaving a legacy and the wagon tracks still visible today. Reaching Santa Fe in 1880, the railroad brought a halt to the wagon trade.
With the Plains Indians forced onto reservations, the frontier era came to a close. The region slowly filled with the families of ranchers and farmers. The valley continued to suffer occasional floods and the area survived the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Drastic floods throughout the United States in the early 1900s raised concerns and the need for John Martin Reservoir was born.
John A. Martin, Congressman was the greatest advocate of the Caddoa Dam project. Primarily through his efforts, legislation for the project was passed by Congress. Congress passed legislation that assigned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with providing flood protection for the public's safety. The 1939 Roosevelt approval meant the government would spend millions on buying more than 20,000 acres of land and 21 miles of Santa Fe Railroad tracks would have to be moved. Due to WWII, it wasn't until 1946 when the project was back on track and finally completed in 1948. The length of the dam is 2.6 miles with a height of 118 feet. Its discharge capacity is 639,200 feet with a drainage area of 18,913 square miles.
Representing the Third District of southeastern Colorado, John Martin faithfully served in Congress for two periods, 1909-1913 and 1932-1939. Martin consistently fought for humane legislation and the welfare of his state. Martin was also instrumental in passing legislation for the Social Security Act. In June 1940, the Caddoa Project was renamed John Martin Dam and Reservoir in honor of the late Congressman.
John Martin Reservoir and Lake Hasty are located off Hwy 50 near Hasty.
John Martin Reservoir is located on the Arkansas River, 1,159 miles upstream
from its confluence with the Mississippi River. The project is located between
Las Animas and Lamar, Colorado. The concrete and earthen dam serves to protect
the Arkansas River Valley from potential flooding originating in the 18,
915 miles of the river's watershed. John Martin Reservoir is the largest
body of water in southeast Colorado and a Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Site. The reservoir is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A portion of the reservoir is leased to Colorado Sate Parks. The blue waters
of the lake allow visitors a chance to enjoy a fun day or weekend of swimming,
picnicking, camping, boating, water skiing, sailing, jet skiing, or windsurfing.
Fishing is another popular activity on the reservoir, Lake Hasty and nearby
rivers. The area also provides hiking, picnicking and sight-seeing opportunities.
Hunting opportunities are available in the nearby state wildlife area. Information
kiosks, a DAR marker and SFT wagon ruts can also be found at the reservoir.
Historic National Cemetery at New Fort Lyon. Open 8AM- 5 PM daily. Once a Fort, then a Veteran Administration hospital, now a prison, was originally established in 1867 to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Many buildings from the 1860s remain.
Boggsville Historic Site, located 2 miles south of Las Amimas features historic buildings and special events.Features Nature Trail and trading room during the summer months. Contact the Bent County Chamber of Commerce at 719-456-0453 for more information.
Bent's Old Fort, a National Historic Site, reconstructed by the National Park Service to appear as it looked in 1845-46. Enjoy the historic atmosphere daily. Contact the Fort for special events at 719-383-5010.