History Trail Connects Southeast Colorado to Southwest Development

Capulin Volcano

After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848 the US Army found it necessary to create and supply a series of forts in the newly conquered southwestern territory. The Army also discovered new routes into the New Mexico territory…routes that shortened delivery times to vital forts such as Fort Union and were better suited to the Army’s lighter freight wagons pulled by mules and horses. 

One of these routes was the Granada-Fort Union Military Freight Route which left the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail near present-day Granada, Colorado, crossing through northern New Mexico and then on to Fort Union. The route passed near the Capulin Volcano east of present-day Raton, New Mexico. The volcanic site was no stranger to historic events. Folsom Man Points were discovered just eight miles away. American Indians and Spanish conquistadors traveled in the area and 19th century cattle drives would pass by.  

Military forts such as Fort Union, Fort Larned and others were established along the trail to control Indian conflicts and protect travelers as a result. However in an effort to supply Fort Union as railroads began expanding westward, the original Santa Fe Trail routes were swiftly abandoned for the Granada-Fort Union Military Freight Route which passed directly south and east of Capulin Volcano’s base. As the Santa Fe Trail neared its decline, a new industry was rising. Ranching and sheep herding had previously been commonplace throughout the plains but overnight cattle became the more profitable industry.  

Struggling to feed soldiers and captives at Fort Sumner, the War Department issued advertisements offering to pay high prices for cattle. Two Texas cattle dealers, despite the risks, forged a trail from Texas to New Mexico which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving drove cattle north through sparsely populated, lawless regions with very little water to Fort Sumner. The cattle not sold to the military continued north, directly past Capulin Volcano, to Colorado for sale at the market. The cattle industry grossed a million dollars over the next five years and created a profitable economy for the Great Plains which remains to this day.

Capulin rises over 8,000′ above the prairies and it summit can be accessed by an all-season road or you can walk it. You can even walk to the bottom of the crater. And on a clear day you can see the trail runs in the distance.


Filed Under: City of GranadaConsumer IssuesCountyFeaturedHistoryMedia ReleaseRecreationThe ArtsTourismTransportation


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