Last updated: October 21, 2020
The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (NHA), which includes more than 3,000 square miles of south-central Colorado, was dedicated March 30, 2009 in the backyard of two brothers who helped make it possible: Former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and former U.S. Rep. John Salazar of Colorado. Both were born in Alamosa, CO, the valley’s largest town, and grew up in the nearby farming community of Rincones near Manassa.
The Sangre de Cristo NHA is named for the range of jagged, 14,000-foot mountains that defines the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, one of the largest and highest alpine valleys in North America. It is also home to Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis, established in 1851. Besides Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – whose 750-foot mounds are the tallest dunes on the continent – the heritage area contains three national wildlife refuges, a national forest and two forest wilderness areas, 13 state wildlife areas and a Nature Conservancy preserve, the Medano-Zapata Ranch. It also includes the beginnings of the Rio Grande, the third-longest river system in North America. The heritage area also contains more than 20 cultural properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the narrow-gauge Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM, as well as Fort Garland, the adobe outpost where Kit Carson served as commander after the Civil War. Recently, a project through the Underrepresented Community Grant Program, which works to diversify nominations submitted to the National Register of Historic Places, funded an effort to recognize the significance of select historic properties within the Sangre de Cristo NHA related to Latino history in the region.
The Sangre de Cristo NHA works with its many partners within its reaches to provide a wide range of activities, history and scenery fit for anyone wanting to visit.
This Heritage Area includes the following sites:
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway
- Fort Garland Museum
- Jack Dempsey Museum
- Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge
- Monde Vista National Wildlife Refuge
- Rio Grande River
- Stations of the Cross Shrine
- San Acacio Church
- Zapata Falls
- Rio Culebra Villages
- Old Spanish National Historic Trail