Fort Union National Monument

Written by on July 29, 2016 in NM History & Heritage - Comments Off on Fort Union National Monument

Fort Union, guardian of the Santa Fe Trail during its heyday, was established in 1851. In actual fact, three forts were built, one after the other, on the plains of northeastern New Mexico. The first was of green logs that warped in the sun and heat and lasted only 10 years. The second, built of much more sturdy material, was erected in 1861 to defend the Union against Confederate troops. Earthworks in the shape of a four-cornered star enclosed the troops. The anticipated battle between the North and the South never took place, and as the fort was damp and muggy, it was abandoned after only two years.

The third and final fort was the largest, built of adobe and stone with real glass windows, and was very livable. It was the garrison, arsenal and supply depot for the military in the Southwest. The fort remained garrisoned until 1891, when it was finally closed.

Today, only a shell of the old fort remains; adobe chimneys and thick walls are set amidst the grass and weeds of the plains. However, it isn’t hard to imagine the industry and activity that must have taken place here. You can almost hear the shouted commands of the soldiers, the ring of the blacksmith hammer, the bawl of oxen. Wandering around the area, you can also see the largest visible network of Santa Fe Trail ruts anywhere in the Southwest.

During the summer, Fort Union provides scheduled interpretive talks, guided tours and living history programs. There is also a 1.6 mile, self-guided interpretive trail that enables you to tour the ruins and learn about the amazing history of the pioneers and soldiers who ventured West. You can also opt for a shorter half mile, self guided tour.

Fort Union National Monument is open daily except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Winter hours are Labor Day to Memorial Day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while summer hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are picnic areas in the monument, but no camping is available.

The nearby towns of Las Vegas (New Mexico)icon and Ratonicon offer accommodations, dining, shopping and camping. Other attractions within an hour or two drive include: Capulin Volcano National Monument, Pecos National Historic Park and Bandelier National Monument. The lovely towns of Taos and Albuquerque are within easy driving distance as well.

Fort Union National Monument
P.O. Box 127
Watrous, NM 87753
Phone: 505-425-8025

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