Trout Creek Pass or Ute Trail

Sidebar by Ed Quillen

Anza’s Route – August 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

After crossing the San Luis Valley (they moved at night so Comanche scouts wouldn’t see their dust cloud), Anza’s 800 men and 2,400 horses camped near the summit of Poncha Pass on Thursday, Aug. 26, 1779. Journal entries for the next two days:

Aug. 27. At seven we forced our way through a very narrow canyon with almost inaccessible sides and considerable water. The first that runs generally to the northeast and which is the only one that divides the two sierras mentioned. It being very rarely crossed, cost us considerable work to conquer. This accomplished after traveling five leagues, we came out at the union of this stream of water with a good-sized river which was named San, Agustin. There the day’s journey ended.

Aug. 28. Just before seven o’clock we set out on the road toward the northeast and after a little more than a league we crossed to the Rio de Napestle which comes from the northwest. It has its rise in the sierra which as already said runs in this direction. After finishing another league we began to cross another medium-sized sierra, which occupied two more leagues. Upon these four more were made to the east through some ranges of hills, where from two in the afternoon until seven we rested the horses. After this, continuing the march in the last named direction, five more leagues were traveled until we arrived at some hills which were named Las Perdidas, because of the trouble we had from the snow and fog which beset us before night.

So. Anza crossed Poncha Pass on Aug. 27 and camped that night near the future town of Poncha Springs — the junction of Poncha Creek and the “Rio San Augustin,” today’s South Arkansas or Little River.

The next day, they passed near the site of Salida, forded the Arkansas (Rio de Napestle), and camped in South Park that night.

But how did they get from Salida to South Park? In The Great Gates: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Passes, Marshall Sprague argues for some vacant of Ute Trail: “it was across the river and into the Mosquitoes that de Anza took his men — up and over the crest near Cameron Mountain…”

Before examining Ute Trail this summer, Kessler was firmly in the Trout Creek camp: “I believe that their trail must have paralleled the Arkansas River to the north to the area of Johnson Village where they crossed the river. Their route followed … Highway 24. Lengthy conversation with Floyd J. Willis, long-time South Park rancher, helped me confirm this route.”

Unless someone finds a rock inscribed with “Año 1779. Anza,” the controversy will continue.

The quotations from Anza’s diary. and Ron Kessler’s argument for Trout Creek, are from his book, Anza’s 1779 Comanche Campaign, which is available from the author at 1026 South County Road 2 East, Monte Vista CO 81144, 719-852-5225.