Colorado Bases and Forts: Military History and Sites


Colorado, known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventures, also boasts a fascinating military history. The state has several historic bases and forts that have significantly shaped the nation’s defense and security. From the frontier days to modern times, these installations have served as vital outposts, training grounds, and strategic centers.


  • Colorado's bases and forts have played crucial roles in various conflicts, including the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War.
  • These installations have contributed to the state's economy and development, providing employment and infrastructure.
  • Many of these historic sites are now open to the public and offer unique insights into Colorado's military heritage.

The Frontier Forts: Protecting the American West

In the 19th century, as settlers moved westward, a series of forts were established in Colorado to protect them from conflicts with Native American tribes and to maintain order in the region. Among these frontier outposts were Fort Garland, built in 1858, Fort Wise, built in 1860, and Fort Lyon, established in 1867. These forts served as bases for the U.S. Army, providing security and support for the growing settlements.

Fort Garland, located in the San Luis Valley, was once commanded by the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. Today, the fort is a museum that showcases the life and times of the frontier soldiers and the region’s rich history.

World War II and the Cold War Era

Colorado’s bases and forts were vital in training and deploying troops as the United States entered World War II. Camp Hale, located near Leadville, was established in 1942 to train soldiers in mountain warfare and winter survival skills. The camp was home to the famous 10th Mountain Division, whose soldiers fought bravely in the Italian Alps during the war.

Colorado Springs became a hub for military operations during the Cold War, establishing the Air Force Academy in 1954 and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in 1957. NORAD, famous for its underground command center inside Cheyenne Mountain, has been a critical component of the nation’s defense system, monitoring air and space threats.

Modern Installations and Their Impact

Today, Colorado continues to host several active military installations, including Fort Carson Army Base, Schriever Space Force Base – Peterson Space Force Base (formerly Peterson Air Force Base), and Buckley Space Force Base (formerly Buckley Air Force Base). These bases contribute to the nation’s defense and play a significant role in the state’s economy, providing employment opportunities and supporting local businesses.

Fort Carson, located near Colorado Springs, is home to the 4th Infantry Division and has been a major training center for the U.S. Army since World War II. The base covers over 137,000 acres and employs more than 25,000 military and civilian personnel.

Preserving Colorado’s Military Heritage

Many of Colorado’s historic bases and forts have been preserved and transformed into museums, allowing visitors to explore the state’s rich military history. In addition to Fort Garland, the Colorado Springs area is home to the National Museum of World War II Aviation and the Peterson Air and Space Museum, which showcase the region’s aviation and space exploration heritage.

Fort Sedgwick still stands as a historical landmark in Sedgwick County. Bent’s New Fort Site in Bent County sits on private land but is under the care and management of the National Park Service. Visitors can walk a trail and read interpretive wayside exhibits about Bent’s New Fort.

These museums offer a unique opportunity to learn about the sacrifices and contributions of the men and women who have served in the military and the technological advancements that have shaped modern warfare.


What is the oldest military fort in Colorado?

Bent’s Old Fort, located near La Junta, was built in 1833 and served as a trading post and a stopping point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

Can civilians visit active military bases in Colorado?

Access to active military bases is restricted, but some installations, such as Fort Carson, offer tours and events open to the public on specific occasions.

What is the significance of the 10th Mountain Division in Colorado’s military history?

The 10th Mountain Division, trained at Camp Hale during World War II, specialized in mountain warfare and played a crucial role in the Allied victory in the Italian Alps.

Are there any decommissioned military bases in Colorado that have been repurposed?

Yes, Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, which closed in 1994, has been redeveloped into a mixed-use community featuring residential areas, businesses, and educational institutions. Fort Logan now houses the headquarters of the University of Colorado’s ARTS program and a national cemetery.

How have Colorado’s military installations contributed to the state’s economy?

Colorado’s bases and forts have provided numerous employment opportunities for military personnel and civilians and supported local businesses through contracts and partnerships.

Colorado’s bases and forts are testaments to the state’s rich military heritage, from the frontier days to the modern era. These installations have played crucial roles in protecting the nation and contributed to the state’s growth and development. By preserving and sharing the stories of these historic sites, Colorado ensures that the sacrifices and contributions of its military personnel will be remembered for generations to come.

Are there existing towns that were originally Colorado military bases?

Yes, Fort Collins was founded in 1864 as a military fort and replaced the former outpost, Camp Collins. Fort Morgan, also established in 1864, was first called Camp Tyler and Camp Wardell. Fort Collins was incorporated as a town in 1873, and Fort Morgan was incorporated in 1889.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.