Situated on a bend in the river, the RR stop had a logical name of River Bend. Today River Bend is a vacant spot in a pasture next to the railroad tracks. The Interstate has an exit sign for the village that sat on the bend in the river. Old River Bend, Colorado is back west from the Interstate exit a few miles behind the ridge. Old highway 40 outline can still be seen following along the Interstate. South of the exit are a few ranch houses, which is considered River Bend. To the north on the hill is the town cemetery, a Boot Hill.
Outside of the exit sigh and cemetery, River Bend is a paragraph in most history books and sometimes only a sentence. Yet in the 1870’s it was an important RR town on the plains of eastern Colorado. Here the buffalo hunters arrived by railcar to safari into the nearby hills to hunt. Colonel Reno used River Bend for his headquarters when General Custer’s 7th Calvary was assigned to protect the new railroad building across the plains.
As a result, River Bend was a pretty tumultuous town of saloons, brothels, and assorted characters. With the various early day conflicts, boot hill had a good assortment of customers. One of the locals at the museum talking about the cemeterary grimaced when describing some the evil folks buried up there on the hill.
In the area are remains of the stage stop, a military fort, ruts of the Smoky Hill Trail and assorted artifacts. Metal Calvary buttons, Indian arrowheads, spent shell casings, wagon parts and rusted tin cans. During the mid 1860’s, it was a crossroads for various trails/wagon roads going to the gold fields. It also was great buffalo hunting grounds for the local Indians.
Flying down Interstate 70, River Bend exit doesn’t get much more than a glance. The lone tree on Boot Hill, goes unnoticed. Cattle dot the land, drifting along munching grass as cars and trucks whiz by. It is a pretty quiet scene. No more buffalo to hunt, no more Indians to do battle with and the gun fighters RIP.