La Junta Where the Santa Fe Trail Divides

The Hub of Commerce

The Spanish name "La Junta" (pronounced La Hunta) means a junction where roads diverge to mountain passes or vast plains. La Junta was founded in December, 1875 and during this time was utilized as the thoroughfare for the Santa Fe Railroad and the Kansas Pacific from Kit Carson. Big Commercial firms used it for the bulk of their trade business in New Mexico, Arizona and other many states. It was a hub of commerce and common place to see 300 to 500 mule and bull teams on her streets.



The Santa Fe Railroad was finished south to El Moro in 1877 marking the decline of it's boom town era and most of its buildings had been moved away. In June of 1878 the Kansas Pacific branch from Kit Carson to La Junta was abandoned and the rails taken up. La Junta was left forsaken and stranded. The Santa Fe Railroad recognized the future importance of the station and built a depot and roundhouse as its headquarters of the Colorado division. By 1879 Santa Fe shops were established and the town was revived and it's growth expanded to 5,000 at present day.

Railroad Brings Commerce

La Junta was incorporated on May 15, 1881 and James C. Denny was La Junta's first mayor elected to office May 1, 1881. Mayor Denny came to La Junta in 1878 and was instrumental in rebuilding it. He founded and edited the "LA JUNTA TRIBUNE'', built the finest furnished school house in the county, and was appointed postmaster in 1879. Since that time, La Junta's growth has been steady and continuous. It now has business blocks, modern residences, and enjoys everything needed by a town of twenty-five thousand -- water works owned by the city, sewers, electric lights, miles of brick sidewalks, an up-to-date fire department and an opera house capable of properly staging any theatrical attraction on the road.

The Jones' block, completed in 1888, on the corner of Trinidad Plaza and Colorado Avenue, was the first modern business block erected in the city. The Central Block was completed in 1890 and the Masonic Temple Block in 1892. The court house was erected during the summer of 1897 at a cost of $15,000, and is one of the most substantial, handsome, and conveniently arranged public buildings ever constructed for that amount of money. The La Junta Theater, a modern up-to-date structure, with a seating capacity of 150, was erected during the year 1901 at a cost of $20,000. The new city hall was erected in 1902 at a cost of $12,000. The Powell Block, Simonton Block, Park Block, Finney Block, Pierce Block, Wonderly Block, and Dougherty Block, all handsome brick structures, have been erected during the past five years. The Postal Telegraph Company established a relay station in 1903 and today handles from 40,000 to 50,000 messages daily. The Santa Fe Railroad contemplates improvements that will make La Junta one of the most important points on the lines west of Topeka. The railroad shops burned in 1903 are to be replaced with much larger and grander shops.

The Perfect Year Round Playground

La Junta is the center of the famous Arkansas Valley and the county seat of Otero County. The altitude is 4,100 feet. The nights are notably pleasant, and it is always delightfully cool in the shade, even in the hottest weather. Winters are mild with sunny skies just about all the season. Fall like temperatures and a dry climate prevail in the winter with only two or three weeks of real winter. The region is rich in beauty and wealthy in attractions. Green, rolling hills flow alongside the Arkansas River and the route of the historic Santa Fe Trail. The trail epitomized the frontier spirit of exploration, trade, and settlement. Dozens of crystal blue lakes and reservoirs lure wildlife as well as recreationists. Preserved grasslands and canyon lands whisper of pioneers adventures as they traveled through and settled in the region. For 57 years La Junta has held a Kids Rodeo and Race the first weekend in August. Many special activities such as Arkansas Valley Fiesta Days and Hot Air Balloon Races provide fun in Otero County. The Colorado Invitational Dove Hunt brings in dove hunters from all over the United States. Seven, four-man teams compete each year over Labor Day weekend. Truly a year round playground for the adventurous nature in us all.

Otero Junior College

Otero Jr. College offers a complete two year program, as well as the ability to receive a four year degree in education and business. OJC is located on an attractive 40-acre campus in La Junta, CO in beautiful Southeastern Colorado. OJC serves the local counties of Otero, Bent, and Crowley. La Junta's school system is surpassed by no city in the state. Graduates are admitted to the State University and other great educational institutions without examination. The community offers many fun events and activities for the students.



Picketwire Center for the Performing and Visual Arts History

In 1968, a handful of La Juntans interested in live theatre joined together for the formation of the "Picketwire Players." Their dream required hard work, community support, thousands of dollars, and over a thousand people to create the Picketwire Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. Located at 8th and San Juan in La Junta, Colorado, the theatre has become the hub for theatrical events. Much work was required including the refurbishing and replacement of the old used seats. Outdoor benches with the carved drama masks provide the audience with a pleasant intermission period during the performances. The auditorium and balcony seat 350 - 394. Three yearly theatrical productions of all varieties incorporate featured artists in dramas, comedies, musicals, offering a genre of talent for the entire Arkansas Valley. The Center promotes the performing arts and also celebrates local artists in featured art shows.


Rocky Ford Balloon Festival

The annual Rocky Ford Balloon Festival is held every year in Rocky Ford. The race brings in hot air balloons from across the nation to take part in the festival. Kit Carson gave the name Rocky Ford to the rocky, graveled crossing on the Arkansas River where he would camp when in the area. The town was platted April 12, 1887. Senator G.W. Swink was the founding father of Rocky Ford, Colorado and its first mayor. He is the one who developed the famous Rocky Ford Cantalope. Rocky Ford has a great Chamber of Commerce, be sure and stop in to find out what's going on around town.

The City of Rocky Ford is located in Southeastern Colorado on U.S. Highway 50, on the historic Santa Fe Trail. Famous for sweet melons and onions, Rocky Ford celebrates this abundance of produce during Melon Days. This is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the nation. Rocky Ford has an estimated population of 4,265. The City is one hour driving time east of Pueblo and only three hours driving time from our state capital, Denver.





Early Settler's Day

Early Settler's Day is a one-day event, held on the second Saturday of September. This event begins with breakfast served by the Kiwanis, followed by a parade, and plenty of entertainment and shopping for everyone throughout the day.

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