Big Timbers Museum was named for the huge stands of cottonwoods, and other trees, which grew up to three quarters of a mile wide extending eastward and westward along the Arkansas River.

“Last of the Big Timbers” painted by Mrs. Paul (Mildred) Steward. Is a part of the Prowers County Historical Society’s collection on display at Big Timbers Museum.  This cottonwood tree was located northeast of the Amity Canal Headgate and measured 16 feet in circumference.


The Big Timbers were at one time the site of 600 Native American lodges, and the scene of many Indian Councils and annual feasts. Cheyennes, Commanches, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and other tribes of the plains found refuge in the Big Timbers during the winter.  Explorer Zebulon Pike and others used the area as a bivouac for their expeditions as they traveled along the Arkansas River. William Bent built his New Fort in this area which later became known as      Fort Wise 1852 – 1866.

Photograph of Fort Wise, part of the Prowers County Historical Society collection on display at Big Timbers Museum.

Pioneers and settlers traveling along the Santa Fe Trail on the Arkansas River found the Big Timbers to be the finest place to camp after leaving Council Groves, Kansas.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (N.S.D.A.R) and The National Old Trails Road Association determined that the historical incidents that took place in the Big Timbers were significant and chose Lamar, Colorado as an outstanding site for one of their twelve “Madonna of the Trail” markers on the National Old Trails Road.  The twelve statues are a memorial to the “Pioneer Mothers of the Covered Wagon Days”.

This 1927 photograph of sculptor, August Leimbach working in his St. Louis, Missouri studio on one of the National “Madonna of the Trails” Memorial Monuments is part of the Prowers County Historical Society collection on display at Big Timbers Museum.

In cooperation with Prowers County, Big Timbers Museum is sponsored by Prowers County Historical Society and features the Society’s collection of archives and artifacts which focus on the legacy of the High Plains of Eastern Colorado.  Exhibits range from ancient Native American inhabitants; pioneers and homesteaders; an 1890’s Charles Fredrick Worth lace wedding gown; military history including a WWI poster collection; artifacts related to the N.S.D.A.R. Madonna of the Trail Monument and National Old Trails Road Markers; a variety of artifacts related to the Fleagle Gang robbery of the First National Bank in Lamar (their cases were the first ever in which the Bureau of Investigation, later called the FBI, used a single fingerprint as part of the evidence leading to a conviction); the dust bowl; a large collection of local newspapers; and other area history as Prowers County and its High Plains neighbors have grown into the 21st century.

In 2011, the Big Timbers Museum welcomed the Big Timbers Transportation Museum which features antique wagons, cars, trucks, and items related to the Santa Fe Trail.

Christmas at Big Timbers Transportation Museum.  This blue 1927 Buick was owned by The Fleagle Gang.