Most people who have been in western Colorado for any length of time have at least a passing knowledge of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition — the trek led by two Spanish friars in 1776 that passed through these parts in an effort to find a functional route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.
However, there has been little but rumors and Ute oral tradition to indicate that Spaniards made it this far north a century or more before Dominguez and Escalante. Until now, that is.
Thanks to the work of the Western Investigations Team, a good argument can now be made that Spanish conquistadors visited an area near Grand Mesa south of Grand Junction.
The WIT team is a collaboration between the Museum of Western Colorado and Colorado Mesa University. Based on a December discovery of ancient armor by a student at CMU, and the nearby uncovering of a small fort or redoubt that was likely used by the Spaniards, the team has potentially pushed back the date for the first Spanish visitors to this area to the 1600s or even 1500s. That’s based primarily on dating of the armor and other artifacts found nearby.
It’s an impressive addition to the recorded history of this region. Congratulations to the WIT team for its ongoing efforts.