About Our Heritage

Explore the unique aspects of the San Luis Valley's heritage including its natural wonders, pioneering settlers, mining booms, cultural traditions, and creative spirit. Along the Valley's roads and among the attractions, the rich history of the San Luis Valley unfolds to reveal the diversity of the region's land and people.
Pikes Stockade
Antonito Mural
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Homelake Veterans Home
San Luis Cultural Center

Cradled between the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains at the headwaters of the Rio Grande, lies the San Luis Valley. The diverse geologic and geographic features of this vast basin including lush river bottoms, an inland ocean of sand, and craggy summits reaching elevations over 14,000 feet have enticed and enthralled people since the times of Ice Age hunters.

A cavalcade of characters, some infamous, and some downright notorious, have stepped across this landscape. Diego de Vargas, Juan Bautista de Anza, Zebulon Pike, John C. Fremont, Kit Carson, John Gunnison, Phil Sheridan, Tom Tobin, Bat Masterson, Soapy Smith, Bob Ford, Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Chipeta and Ouray, Otto Mears, Ulysses S. Grant, Alfred Packer - the names associated with the San Luis Valley history read like a western epic.

Nomadic hunters, including Apache, Kiowa, Navajo, and Yutah (Ute) tribal people have sought out the Valley's abundant wildlife. Spanish governors were the first to provide written descriptions of the San Luis Valley before the formation of the United States. During ensuing decades, explorers, pioneers, homesteaders, land speculators, prospectors, and travel writers were attached to the Valley's riches. Freely flowing clean water, comforting hot springs, verdant wetlands teeming with birds, fish, and wild game, expanses of natural grass hay, majestic mountain vistas, forests and upland meadows, plus mother lode deposits of silver and gold lured these newcomers.