The Rio Grande County Museum was established in 1959, and is a Blue Star Museum Participant—military members get in for free. It’s located in the picturesque town of Del Norte on Colorado’s western slope, not far from Alamosa and Monte Vista.
This cultural center and museum gives visitors a look into the history of Rio Grande County and its early settlers. Exhibits focus on Native Americans, mountain men, trappers, miners, ranchers and farmers. Some of the most interesting exhibits feature rock art from the Pueblo and Ute tribes, and artifacts from early Hispanic settlements. There are also photographs of Monte Vista’s agricultural history, including “potato row” wagons from the early twentieth century.
The petroglyphs and pictographs are particularly interesting to visitors interested in gaining a sense of the length of human history in the region. Some of the earliest examples date from around 3000 B.C.
Another local spot of historical interest highlighted by the museum is the Old Spanish Trail. While the original trail was a Native American trade route that served in that capacity for over a thousand years, the trail had a resurgence in use by the Spanish in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Between 1830 and 1848, the Trail was a major trade route for Mexican and American traders. They used it to take woolen goods west and horses east between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California.
Museum programs include talks by local historians and excursions led by experienced naturalists. Every Saturday afternoon the staff set aside time for community members to come and enjoy both coffee and history on the museum’s patio. The museum has information for people who want to visit local rock-art sites. It’s open year-round, Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.
Address: 580 Oak St, Del Norte, CO 81132
Season: Year round