***** San Luis *****
The oldest town in Colorado
San Luis Courthouse
- County Seat for Costilla County
At the end of the Mexican war of 1848, the United States
acquired an area that was called the New Mexico Territory
(part of which is now Costilla County).
Spanish-speaking Americans, settled the town of San Luis and
had to guard it from Indians. San Luis is the first permanent
town in Colorado and was founded on June 21, 1851,
the date of the annual Fiesta de San Luis. The original
village was named after the Catholic Saint.
The oldest continuously operated business in Colorado is
located in San Luis also, a general store now called the
R&R Market. The market still stands at the same site where
it was founded by Dario Gallegos in 1857.
San Luis is positioned 37.20 degrees North of the equator
and 105.42 degrees West of the prime meridian.
The population of San Luis is approximately 800.
The approximate number of families is 350.
More historical, current and tourist
information can be found at the following links:
SLV Famous Places
Historical - San Luis
Historical - Time Line
Historical - Costilla County
Historical - Maps (to current)
San Luis Valley Links List
San Luis, Colorado has amazing historical sites
as well as all the modern conveniences for visitors:
You will find at least two excellent restaurants for breakfast
or lunch, a place for great traditional Mexican dinner and
even a pizza parlor. San Luis also has a bank next to
the Museum & Cultural Center. There is also two
gas stations in town to fill up before exploring the area.
For fishing & picnicking, Sanchez Reservoir is only
about 10 minutes Southeast of town and
is a state wildlife area nestled next to the mountains.
The San Luis Valley History
Millions of years ago, eruptions and massive earthquakes
formed the largest alpine valley in the world, in which the
floor lies 7,500 feet above sea level. The length of the valley
from north to south is over 80 miles, and its greatest
width is approximately 50 miles. Nestled high in the
Colorado Rockies, protected by 14,000 foot peaks, the
San Luis Valley offers breathtaking scenery year round.
The San Juan Range on the west is the continental divide.
The spiny Sangre de Cristo Range on the east is one of
Colorado's tallest mountain ranges. Mt. Blanca, the fourth
tallest peak in Colorado, at 14,345 feet, towers over the
San Luis Valley. The valley floor is a semi-arid vista receiving
approximately eight inches of moisture a year.
Early Spanish explorers and Native Americans are known to
have passed through the Valley, each establishing small encampments
bad luck. When Coronado, the famous Spanish
Conquistador, sought the fabled riches of Quivara, he came in contact
with the Indians of the San Luis Valley, who directed him east to the
fateful end of his expedition. Later, in 1708, Juan de Ulaterri claimed the
San Luis Valley for the king of Spain. In 1806, Zebulon Pike, after his
discovery of Pike's Peak, came into the San Luis Valley over Mosca
Pass not knowing that he was on Spanish soil. At Pike's Stockade,
south of Alamosa, he was captured and taken prisoner to Santa Fe.
Finally, in 1848, John Fremont led an ill-fated expedition into the San
Luis Valley, northwest of Alamosa, during harsh winter weather. He is
known to have gotten lost during his journey and disappeared.
In June of
1878 a narrow-gauge train loaded with expectant settlers
chugged west from Fort Garland to settle a new town on the Rio
Grande River at the center of the vast San Luis Valley. They found a
protected area shaded by cottonwood trees and named their new home
"Alamosa", which is Spanish for cottonwood. The Valley was settled
and began growing due to increased agricultural production.
flatcars delivered lumber and hardware, and buildings went
up forming the new town. Over the next ten years rails were laid in all
four directions and Alamosa became a veritable center of the San Luis
Valley. The little town soon grew into a rail, agricultural mining and
educational center. The San Luis Valley is extremely important to
Colorado and has played a key role in the settlement of the state.
San Luis Valley Map
The San Luis Valley of Colorado is located nearly centered on the
Southerly State Line next to New Mexico. Although it appears
flat and without relief, it is located at the high elevation of around
7,500 feet above sea level. One unusual feature that you can see from
the image above is that the valley is surrounded by mountains in
almost every direction making it appear to be protected by geographic features. From a high altitude the SLV can be distinguished easily.
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