The City of Delta, gateway to the Colorado Canyons, is located at the confluence of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers. Its geographic location and rich agricultural land has been attracting people for thousands of years. The low lying area that borders the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers was the meeting place of the south to north Navajo-Uncompahgre Trail for travelers moving up from New Mexico into the Western Slope of Colorado. Movement from east to west was accomplished by trails stretching from the San Louis Valley into the now Gunnison River drainage, becoming the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail. Both trails met in the bottom river area, that would became known as the “Robdioux Bottoms” 1.
By the mid 1820’s Antione Robidoux established a small fort on the banks of the Gunnison River a short distance below the mouth of the Uncompahgre River. The Indians of western Colorado, Utah, southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, and of much of the remainder of the central portion of the corridor received their first regular taste of northern Indo-European civilization by the establishment of the fort on the Gunnison. 2. By late 1844 Antione abandoned his fort on the Gunnison, Fort Compogera (sic.) and returned to St. Louis. For almost 20 years the Fort served as an outpost, trading pelts for prized items both to the native peoples and the fur trappers. Fort Uncompahgre was linked to Antione’s other outpost, Fort Uintah in present day north-eastern Utah. The Northern Branch of the Old Spanish Trail was a well established route from Santa Fe, moving north into the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Once over the gentle Cochetopa Pass, the Trail moved downstream to the Gunnison River. Trappers and traders continued down the Gunnison using Indian routes over into the Uncompahgre Valley. This route was well traveled down the Uncompahgre to the Fort, hence following what would become the Gunnison River down to the Grand and farther west into the Great Basin. This Northern Branch of the Old Spanish Trail brought traders from Sante Fe, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California through Delta to exchange pelts, Mexican blankets, and buffalo robes for cash and to bring horses and mules from California.
The pages in this series are of eye-witness accounts of Fort Uncompahgre.