To see a number of buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, take the self-guided Historic Homes of La Junta walking/driving tour, described in a free packet available from the La Junta Chamber of Commerce.
In Search of Dinosaur Tracks
Dinosaur tracks from the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, are a highlight of the Comanche National Grassland, and more than 1,300 prints in about 100 separate trackways make this the largest known dinosaur track site in North America. The grassland, a 442,000-acre area south of La Junta, also draws bird-watchers, hunters, anglers, and hikers. Access to Picket Wire Canyonlands, where the dinosaur tracks are located, is limited to those hiking or on mountain bikes or horseback, and by taking a guided tour.
The tracks are believed to be from dinosaurs in the Sauropodmorpha "lizard feet" and Theropoda "beast feet" families, who lived here when the area was a savanna -- a tropical grassland with a few scattered trees. There was plenty of food for the sauropods, who were plant eaters, making them all the more tempting to their enemies, the meat-eating theropods. The sauropods, particularly the brontosaurus, grew to about 14 feet tall and weighed up to 33 tons. Theropods grew up to 16 feet tall, but were not as long and generally weighed much less. Still, with their sharp claws, they would attack the sauropods whenever given the chance.
You can see the dinosaur tracks on your own on a strenuous hike or on a ride by mountain bike or horse -- get maps and other details from the Comanche National Grassland office -- but the best way to see them is on a U.S. Forest Service-guided tour. The tours, which are scheduled by appointment on Saturdays in May, June, September, and October, cost $15 for adults and $7.50 for children, and those taking the tours need to provide their own high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Information is available from the Comanche National Grassland office, 1420 E. Third St., La Junta, CO 81050 (tel. 719/384-2181; www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/coma). Also contact the office for information on other attractions in the grasslands, including its wildlife -- such as the threatened lesser prairie chicken -- and rock art that's hundreds of years old.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.