Part II of III
With a population approaching 9,000 Alamosa represents the commercial center for south-central Colorado and a popular tourist destination featuring the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Colorado Gators Reptile Park. In addition, Alamosa also hosts the annual SummerFest on the Rio, which occurs the first weekend in June and the Early Iron car show every Labor Day weekend. The Alamosa Farmers’ Market, located in the heart of Alamosa’s historic downtown district, runs each Saturday, mid-July through mid-October, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Both the Sand Dunes and alligator park can be found in the tiny town of Mosca, about 20 miles north of Alamosa. The alligator park originally started as a tilapia fish farm in 1977 and later became a sanctuary and educational center featuring birds and other reptiles and a biodome. A geothermal well provides ponds and wetlands for the alligators and a great habitat and food for waterfowl.
Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes are the tallest sand dunes in North America and cover approximately 39 square miles and rise to almost 750 feet above the valley floor. The dunes were formed as a result of the wind and rain eroding the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Be sure to visit the San Luis Valley Museum, located at 4th and Hunt in Alamosa, and the Fort Garland Museum 20 minutes east of Alamosa. The San Luis Valley Museum features Indian artifacts, a typical old school classroom of the 19th century frontier, a traditional trading post and costumes worn in the 1860’s by frontiersmen, Tom Tobin. About 25 miles east of Alamosa, be sure to visit the Fort Garland Museum, once under the command of legendary Kit Carson, established in 1858 to protect against Indian attacks. The museum features Carson’s artifacts, adobe buildings, a display about the famed Buffalo Soldiers and artifacts from 19th century pioneers.
The San Luis Valley boasts a wealth of sites for artistic centers and colleges and universities and a magnet for various religious beliefs. Roman Catholic traditions are most prevalent based on the Hispanic descendants of the original Spaniards and Mexicans in the region.
About an hour or 60 miles southeast of Alamosa lies Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis. Perhaps the greatest attraction in San Luis is Stations of the Cross Shrine or La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia, a series of bronze life-size sculptures designed by artist Huberto Maestas, which depict the death and resurrection of Christ. About 20 miles south of Alamosa lies the town of Manassa in Conejos County, which is home to the descendants of the Mormon pioneers who founded Manassa in 1879. The town is located a short distance from two ranches purchased by the Mormons from Hispanos on the south side of the Conejos River across from Los Cerritos.
Conservation of the San Luis Valley got a boost with the announcement earlier this year that the Federal government plans to create a 5 million-acre conservation corridor in Colorado and New Mexico. With cooperation from wealthy landowners in the San Luis Valley the idea could help balance development in the region and share resources with local townspeople. Last week the Park Service announced that a 90,000-acre easement donated by billionaire hedge-fund manager Louis Moore Bacon will provide the foundation for the proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area. Bacon owns about 172,000 acres spanning his Blanca and Trinchera Ranches in the San Luis Valley. The parcel of land includes forests, grasslands and tundra and three Fourteener peaks –– Mount Lindsey and Blanca and Little Bear peaks–located between the Great Sand Dunes National Park and La Veta Pass on the east side of the San Luis Valley. Bacon will retain ownership of the property, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will oversee the land.
Alamosa was founded in 1878 with the opening of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. As part of the third and final segment on San Luis Valley, next week La Voz will feature the Rio Grande and the Cumbres-Toltec scenic railroads, local museums, special summer events and a Who’s Who of famous southern Coloradans in history.
For more information regarding Alamosa and the San Luis Valley museums, parks, campsites, wetlands wildlife refuges, visual and performing art centers, and summer special events be sure to visit the following web sites: