Timpas, CO From The Interactive Santa Fe Trail


Timpas, Colorado is sixteen miles southwest of La Junta, Colorado on U. S. Highway 350. Once a thriving town with restaurants, hotels, stores, pool and dance halls a bank and a school population of 120, it is now almost deserted. Only a few families now live in the once-bustling country town.

Timpas reached its peak population during World War I when homesteaders, lured by an irrigation project, moved into the area. When the irrigation dam was washed out in 1922, the settlers were dried out and started moving away. Some of their lands were acquired by the United States under the Bankhead-Jones Act and are now a part of the Comanche National Grasslands.

An archaeological survey has identified artifacts of indigenous people as frequenting the area for centuries. Usually water could be found in pools in Timpas Creek and thus it became an important stop on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. This section of the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail was first traveled by wagons in 1832 or 1834 by an eleven wagon train of Bent, St. Vrain & Co. It was not used much by wagon trains because of the difficulty in crossing Raton Pass.

After Kearny's Army of the West (which had concentrated at Bent's Fort) came streaming through, the road over Raton Pass was much improved and more use was made of the Mountain Branch. When Richens L. Wootten established his toll road in 1865, even more wagon trains used the Mountain Branch because, although longer, it was at times safer and had more water than the Cimarron Cutoff.

The wagon trains would usually cross the Arkansas River at Bent's Fort ford and travel along the south bank until they reached the location of La Junta, Colorado where they would camp along the river. Then they would travel a long and dry 16 miles to Timpas where hopefully they could find water.

One of the earliest settlers at Timpas was Basil (Uncle Bill) Metcalf. He established Metcalf's Ranche in 1869. A *ranche* in the mid-nineteenth century had connotations which meant a stage station or the providing of other services to travelers. *Ranches* could provide lodging, store, bar, livery stable, gambling hall, stage station, and many other functions. Basil Metcalf later established a toll road through Emery Gap on the Granada-Santa Fe branch of the Santa Fe Trail. The ruins of his toll house can be seen in Tollgate Canyon between Branson, Colorado and Folsom, New Mexico.

Large, open range ranching next dominated the Timpas area. Ranches such as the JJ Ranch, the Circle Diamond and the Wineglass used Timpas as a round up and shipping point for livestock after the AT&SF railroad was built to Timpas in 1876.

The U. S. Forest Service has built an observation point near the intersection of U. S. Highway 350 and Colorado Highway 71. From it, ruts of the Santa Fe Trail can still be seen and walked in. The Forest Service has also constructed a rest stop at Timpas with shaded tables and interpretive information. A walking trail leads from the rest stop to the area of Metcalf's Ranche and to the observation point.

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