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Although history books usually begin with the 19th-century gold rush to the central Rockies, the real cradle of Colorado is here, on the wind-swept plains of the Southeast. It was here, in the 1540s, that the first gold-seekers arrived - Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his band of conquistadores. It was here, in 1806, that Colorado received its first emissaries from the United States - the expedition led by Zebulon Pike. And it was here, in 1833, that the first American settlement was raised - Bent’s Old Fort. __The Arkansas River represents a direct line into the past. The Santa Fe Trail ran right alongside it, bringing traders and, later, armies into one of the country’s last Native American strongholds. For legendary frontiersmen such as Kit Carson and John C. Fremont, the Arkansas provided a gateway to the Rockies. Homesteaders traveled upstream in their wake, moving in tandem with the railroad crews and building towns - Lamar, La Junta and Rocky Ford - that still dot the banks of the river. The two largest cities of Southeast Colorado, Trinidad and Pueblo, made their wealth on ranching, coal mining and commerce. __Today the region possesses the dignity that comes with age. There’s no heritage of hurry here, no rush to riches at the foundation of the culture. Time is as plentiful as the prairie shortgrass. Visitors who overlook this quiet corner of the state are missing out on something special. In the vastness of its landscapes and the bottomless depth of its roots, Southeast Colorado conveys a sense of the eternal.
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