The San Luis Valley was long part of the lands of the Ute Indian Tribes. The Spanish, and later the Mexicans, slowly conquered the area from these tribes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Valley was the first portion of Colorado to be settled by Europeans. The area was administered as part of the Spanish, later Mexican, province of Nuevo Mexico (New Mexico) until the area was purchased by the United States as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Extensive settlement began in the Valley by Hispanic farmers and ranchers in the 1850s. Today, the Valley has the largest native Hispanic population in Colorado and many families are directly descended from the original Nuevo Mexican settlers. The Valley became part of the Territory of Colorado in 1861. For the remainder of the 19th century the Valley saw the removal of the Native Americans to reservations elsewhere and the slow migration of farmers and ranchers into the area. Alamosa County was created by the Colorado legislature on March 8, 1913. The county name is the Spanish word for a grove of cottonwood trees. The City of Alamosa was established in May 1878 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and quickly became an important rail center. The railroad had an extensive construction, repair and shipping facility in Alamosa for many years and headquartered its remaining narrow gauge service here. Alamosa remains the commercial center of the Valley and is now a tourist town with many nearby attractions including the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Alamosa is home to Adams State College and Trinidad Junior College. The Town of Hooper is a primarily farming and ranching town, although nearby points of interest bring tourists as well. Three of Colorado’s eight National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) are located in the San Luis Valley, including the Alamosa NWR, Baca NWR, and Monte Vista NWR.