The early Dry Route enters Ford County just west of Offerle, Kansas and travels on or near US 50 highway into Dodge City, Kansas. Along this route Trail Ruts can be seen at four different locations before reaching Dodge City. This route was used before Fort Dodge was established.
The Wet Route enters the county in the Southeast 1/4 of Section 36, Range 21. At this location a fine set of ruts running to the southwest across a pasture can be seen. The Trail runs near the Arkansas River bottom for about ten miles to a location called Black Pool. At this location the trail comes out of the river bottom to take to the high ridge to avoid the rough terrain to the west of this natural spring. Trail ruts can be seen running for a half mile past Black Pool about forty yards to the north in the pasture at this location. Trail ruts can be seen at five locations from Black Pool to Fort Dodge, Kansas to the west about fifteen miles. Several other sites with Trail intrests are also along the way. The Lower Crossing at Mulberry Creek, Small Drain and Jackson Island. One mile to the East of Fort Dodge is the location of the junction of the later Dry Route with the Wet Route. At Fort Dodge, the Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road also meets with the Wet Route. The Wet Route continues west through Dodge City on Trail Street to the west side of town. At the end of Kettle Way on the west side of Dodge City you will find the location of Fort Mann, 1847 and Fort Atkinson 1850. To the northwest of this location is a place called The Caches. The Baird/Chambers party of 1823 hid trade goods at this location. To the west of Caches two miles is the first of several Point of Rocks on the Santa Fe Trail. Following the highway west to near Howell, Kansas the trail takes to the high ridge north of US 50 where a set of ruts can be seen crossing this ridge. One mile to the west of this location the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail leaves Ford County, Kansas.
The Later Dry Route enter Ford County in the Southeast 1/4 of Section 1, Township 25 South, Range 21 West. Five sets of Santa Fe Trail ruts can be seen along this Later Dry Route before you arrive at the Little Coon Creek Crossing some fourteen miles to the southwest. At Little Coon Creek Crossing the cutdowns for this crossing can still be seen at several locations along the creek banks. The trail ruts leading to the crossing at visiable from USGS aerial photos. From this location the trail continues on southwest to the Junction with the Wet Route one mile east of Fort Dodge Kansas.
The Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road isn't really the Santa Fe Trail, but it is an important branch connecting the Santa Fe Trail with a major supply Fort to the North. The Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road enters Ford County in Section 5, Township 25 South, Range 23 West just to the North of Sawlog Creek Crossing. From this county line road the trail ruts can be seen running to the south from the crossing up over the hill more than a mile and a half away. The ruts run across this ranch for about four miles, as they make their way towards Fort Dodge. This location is on the Warner Ranch where no roads are avaiable to view these ruts. USGS photo's are on this web site so you can see them. The next location to view ruts is from the US 50/56/283 junction go two miles South and one and one quarter West or one and a half miles to the North of Fort Dodge, Kansas. There are ruts North of the county blacktop at this location. About one quarter mile North of Fort Dodge on the east side of the road are the last set of ruts before the Junction of the Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road with the Wet Route.
West and south of Dodge City are two more routes that continue west to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The route that continues up the Arkansas River is called the Mountain Route or Bent's Fort Cut-off. This route stays on or near US 50 all the way to LaJunta, Colorado then on a short distance to Bent's Fort. At this point the Santa Fe Trail crosses the Arkansas River heading for Raton Pass and on to Santa Fe. Several Crossing of the Arkansas River are in this area and make up the Cimarron Cut-off or Desert Route. All of these routes strike off in a southwesterly direction for fifty miles of dry and barren land with little or no water only to end up at the a place called Lower Spring or Wagon Bed Spring near the Cimarron River. As Fort Dodge became the central shipping point for the other forts to the south and southwest, another trail carried supplies to a fort to the south. This trail or road running almost straight south from Fort Dodge and Dodge City, was know as the Fort Dodge/Camp Supply Road.
This tour of the Ford County, Kansas is by no means all of the sites to be explored, but it is a good starting point for your tour of the Santa Fe Trail.
Some like to say that in September of 1872 when the first train rolled into Dodge City, the Santa Fe Trail come to it's end. A look at the facts and you will see that this just isn't true. What was the Santa Fe Trail? It was a major trade route across Kansas into Santa Fe New Mexico. If you travel US 56 highway across the State of Kansas, you will see a major trade route of modern time. Instead of Covered Wagons, there are eighteen wheel trucks with trade goods going up and down the Old Santa Fe Trail. US 56 across the State is very near the Santa Fe Trail over most of the route. At Dodge City US 50 is also near the Trail all the way to LaJunta, Colorado. So can we say the Santa Fe Trail died in the 1870's with the comming of the railroad?
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