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Situated 110 miles from Santa Fe, Fort Union National Monument protects two of the three forts built beginning in 1851 to protect settlers and travelers. Situated in the wide Mora Valley, the adobe-walled fort which stands today is unique in that it looks more like a quiet frontier village and less like a military garrison. The fort did not have stockades or heavy defensive armaments, and its layout – it was at the center of a military reservation covering eight square miles – featured wide, straight streets which met at right angles. Quarters were made from pine logs hauled from the nearby mountains.
Travelers have passed through this region for ages. Today, Interstate 25 is nearby, but long before autos came to the region, the Mountain and Cimarron branches of the old Santa Fe Trail came by, and today you can see a network of ruts left behind by those historic travelers. Visitors today can venture into the visitor center to see exhibits about the fort and a film about the Santa Fe Trail. A 1.2-mile trail leaves from the center and winds through the remnants of the fort, which was occupied for about 40 years.