On the east side of Weld County, along Highway 85, which runs north/south from Brighton to the Colorado/Wyoming border, is part of what is known as Trappers' Trail. In the early 1800s fur traders established a series of forts along the various waterways on Colorado's Front Range where they traded various goods, including pelts. In Weld County, there were originally four fur trading forts: Lupton, Vasquez, Jackson and St. Vrain - all located along the South Platte River.
Today as you drive north on Highway 85 from the Denver metro area, you will pass Lupton's Fort on the west side of the highway, just at the north edge of the City of Fort Lupton. This fort, which was reconstructed in 2003, depicts what the fort looked like and how it operated between 1835 and 1844. Many events are held at the fort, and surrounding historic buildings, which give visitors a glimpse into life in the West in the 1800s. Learn more about this fort, the historic park and associated events by visiting the South Platte Valley Historical Society website.
As you continue north on Highway 85, you will notice a fort in the middle of the highway as you approach the town of Platteville. This is Fort Vasquez. Founded in 1835 by Louis Vasquez and Andrew Sublette, this fort only survived a few years. Twenty-two traders were permitted to trade at this fort as they sought buffalo hides and beaver pelts. While you visit, you may wonder while the walls of the fort are so short. The property was donated to Weld County by a local family to be a WPA project in the 1930s, which put 59 men to work rebuilding the fort. Unfortunately, they did not build it to the appropriate height, but their story adds to the rich history of this site. Learn more about Fort Vasquez on the historycolorado.org webpage.
The remaining two forts that were located in Weld County are Fort Jackson and Fort St. Vrain. Unfortunately, Fort Jackson's location and story are lost to history. Fort St. Vrain, however, is commemorated with an impressive monument located where the original fort was build. The St. Vrain Fort, which was built in 1837, was a major trading post on the Platte River until 1848. A comprehensive history of this site, including photos and directions to the monument can be found on the stvrainfort.homestead.com website.
In notice the short walls of the fort
A well written overview of Trappers' Trail in Colorado can be found on the legendsofamerica.com webpage.