Kansas was granted statehood in 1861, becoming the 34th state in the US. Now with a population of nearly 3,000,000, Kansas is known as the Sunflower State, Wheat State, and the Jayhawker State. Find these and other interesting facts about Kansas here. The Santa Fe Trail cuts across Kansas on it way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. US 56 & US 50 highways in Kansas follow the Trail through the State.
Located in Ulysses, Kansas the adobe building in which the museum is housed is interesting in itself. It was built in 1938 as a county shop. This museum also houses a great Santa Fe Trail display, also a well stocked book store.
The Middle Crossings of the Arkansas River to the Cimarron River extended from the Caches site, about 2 miles west of Dodge City, to as far as Charleston, 26 miles farther west. No crossings are visible today because of sandy soils and frequent floods. US Highway 50 along the Arkansas River closely follows the trail route and passes by the crossing sites. Almost all trail traffic followed the Cimarron route until the Civil War and shortly thereafter. Wagons were able to cross the Arkansas River virtually anywhere in this region due to its shallow flows. The Middle Crossings were the scenes of numerous Indian attacks during the trail era.
Lower Cimarron Spring - Wagon Bed Spring, is on the north bank of the Cimarron River, approximately 11 miles south and 1.5 miles west of Ulysses, about 2 miles west of the markers on Kansas 25 south of the Cimarron River bridge. Lower Spring was well known to all travelers who took the Cimarron route because it was the first reliable water supply they encountered since leaving the Arkansas River, and finding this spring meant the travelers had survived La Jornada. Campgrounds were developed at this site. After use along the Santa Fe Trail and during the era of cattle drives from Texas, this site became known as Wagon Bed Springs, the result of cowboys sinking an old wagon bed in the spring.
Middle Spring is 8 miles north of Elkhart on Kansas Highway 27, and about 1 mile west on a dirt road through Cimarron National Grassland to a small enclosed park on the north side of the road. After Lower Spring, Middle Spring was the next reliable water source for travelers in the Cimarron Valley. This made it a major stopping point and campsite on the Santa Fe Trail.
This Point of Rocks is 8 miles north of Elkhart on Kansas 27 and 1.5 miles west on a dirt road through Cimarron National Grassland. It was a lookout along the Cimarron Valley for both Indians and traders, with one branch of the trail running between the rock and the river. This landmark remains as it was during the trail era, and it is still surrounded by grasslands, where wagon ruts can be seen.
In 1996, the Morton County Historical Society Museum was designated as an Official Interpretive Facility for the Santa Fe Historical Trail by the National Parks Service.
"Like a ribbon across the prairie" is a phrase that aptly describes the winding of the historic Santa Fe Trail across the USDA Forest Service's Cimarron, Kiowa, and Comanche National Grasslands. Today, these Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado grasslands provide recreational opportunities, conservation of grass, soil, and water, and appropriate resource use for the public benefit. But for a moment in history, they served as a corridor of commerce for travelers on the Santa Fe trail.
Oklahoma's recorded history began in 1541 when Spanish explorer Coronado ventured through the area on his quest for the "Lost City of Gold." The land that would eventually be known as Oklahoma was part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The Santa Fe Trail runs through the Oklahoma Panhandle and into New Mexico.
Willow Bar is approximately 11 miles north and 11 miles east of Boise City, Oklahoma. Here the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Cimarron River, leaving the valley for higher ground and passing on both sides of Wolf Mountain. Willow Bar usually had water and was frequently used as a campsite. It was also the scene of Indian attacks and other problems.
Wolf Mountain is between Willow Bar and Upper Spring on the Santa Fe Trail, about 9 miles north of Boise City on US Highway 286/385, and then to the northeast. Branches of the trail passed on both sides of this mountain on the way to Upper Spring.
Upper or Flag Spring is 9 miles north and 1.5 miles west of Boise City. Upper Spring is a beautiful setting, with a high rocky hill, the spring, a pond formed by an earthen dam, and views to the Cimarron Valley. It was a campsite on the Santa Fe Trail and also the scene of Indian troubles.
Cold Spring 1 is 6 miles west and 8 miles north of Boise City. Inscription Rock contains the names of many Santa Fe Trail travelers from the 1840s and later. This site is believed to be the location of the stage station at Cold Spring.
Cold Spring 2 is approximately 7 miles west and 7 miles north of Boise City. A branch of the Santa Fe Trail ran south of this spring site. Autograph Rock, which contains the names of many trail travelers from the 1850s and later, is nearby.
Camp Nichols is about 3.5 miles northwest of Wheeless, Oklahoma. Founded by Colonel Kit Carson, it was occupied for only a few months in 1865. The troops stationed here were charged with protecting travelers on the Cimarron and Aubry cutoffs. The soldiers built a stone wall around the parade ground and erected some officer's quarters and other structures. This is the only military site on the trail in Oklahoma. Wagon ruts can still be seen about 0.5 mile south of the fort. The site was also home to an army officer's wife, Marian Sloan Russell, who wrote much about Camp Nichols in her book Land of Enchantment.
Cedar Spring is near the Camp Nichols site, 3.5 miles northwest of Wheeless. This spring was the source of water for Camp Nichols as well as for Santa Fe Trail travelers. Names are carved in the nearby canyon walls of Carrizozo Creek, including members of the Penrose expedition, who were caught there in a blizzard in 1868, and T. O. Boggs, an expedition scout who later founded Boggsville in Colorado.
New Mexico Sites
Santa Fe Trail, El Camino Real, Route 66, The Turquoise Trail, Billy the Kid: The words conjure images of days gone by, of heritage and history, of rural America. The Santa Fe Trail enters New Mexico on two fronts, I 25 at Raton, and the Oklahoma Panhandle near Clayton, New Mexico.
McNees Crossing of Corrumpa Creek is 3.5 miles west of the Oklahoma state line, then 1.5 miles south on New Mexico Highway 406. This rock crossing, which is still visible, was named for a young trader, McNees, who was killed here by Indians in 1828. The crossing was also used as a campground, and a group of traders celebrated the Fourth of July in 1831. This site retains much of its original appearance. A division of the trail east of Camp Nichols rejoined the trail just east of McNees Crossing. Good wagon ruts may be seen in the area.
The Rabbit Ears, actually two peaks, are about 7 miles northwest of the town of Clayton, New Mexico and about 1 mile north of the road. This landmark was named for a Cheyenne Indian called Rabbit Ears who was killed nearby. The trail ran several miles to the north, but it was a guiding landmark for the approach to McNees Crossing.
Turkey Creek camp is about 7 miles north of Rabbit Ears Mountain. The crossing of Turkey Creek was a difficult one. This site had water and a nearby supply of wood and good grazing land, making it a better campsite for Santa Fe Trail travelers than McNees Crossing.
The Rabbit Ears Creek camp is on private land about 6 miles north of the town of Mount Dora, New Mexico. This was considered an excellent campground, with spring-water, grass, wood, and game for food. Many wagon trains reportedly rested at this site for a couple of days. Wagon ruts are still visible.
Mount Dora is south of the Rabbit Ears Creek camp and north of US Highway 64/87, between Clayton and Mount Dora, New Mexico. Mount Dora was a landmark for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, although it was not as significant as Round Mound.
Round Mound is about 4 miles south of the intersection of US Highway 64/87 and New Mexico Highway 120 at Grenville, New Mexico. Round Mound was the major objective or steering point after Santa Fe Trail travelers left the Turkey Creek camp. The trail passed to the north of Round Mound, and travelers often commented on it. An illustration in Josiah Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies (1844) shows a wagon train as seen from the mound. Today this site is known as Mount Clayton.
Sierra Grande, like Mount Dora, was a lesser landmark along this portion of the Santa Fe Trail.
The Point of Rocks in Colfax County is on private land about 8 miles north and 2 miles east of a roadside park on US Highway 56. This landmark was a popular campsite with a nearby spring. There was considerable violence at this site, including the killing of the White family in 1849, and there are 11 known gravesites, only one of which has been identified.
The Rock Crossing of the Canadian River is on private land 2 miles south of US Highway 56 in Colfax County, New Mexico. This famous crossing was used by Indians from early times as well as later travelers on the Cimarron route. The crossing has a natural stone floor for a short distance only. Upstream it is sandy and hard to cross, while downstream a deep, rocky canyon makes it impossible to cross. This spot was considered to be the real entry into Mexico, and Mexican troops were sometimes sent this far to escort traders back to Santa Fe. It was also the site of several Indian raids on the caravans. Wagon ruts are still visible leading to and from this crossing.
The Wagon Mound is beside the town of Wagon Mound, New Mexico. This landmark was so named because it looks like a covered wagon being pulled by oxen, and it was one of the best-known landmarks on the Santa Fe Trail. Wagon Mound was the last major landmark on the Cimarron route and trail ruts lead both directions from there. In 1850 a party of 10 men accompanying the express mail wagon on the Cimarron route were killed by Jicarilla Apaches near Wagon Mound.
Santa Clara Spring is on private land about 2 miles northwest of the town of Wagon Mound. At the head of a small canyon, this spring was used by Santa Fe Trail travelers and still serves as the water source for the town of Wagon Mound. A trail campsite developed here, and the site was also the focus of several Indian attacks.
The Pilot Knobs are 2 miles west of Wagon Mound in Mora County, New Mexico. They were used as a landmark for wagon trains, but they were not as important a landmark as the more visible Wagon Mound immediately to the east.
The Watrous store - Doolittle Ranch house, is just north of the Mora River on US Highway 161 at Watrous. Samuel Watrous opened a trading store and made his home in this structure in 1849. This store catered to Santa Fe Trail travelers until the very end of the trail era. The town was originally known as La Junta and was renamed Watrous when the railroad reached the town.
The Barclay's Fort site is on the south bank of the Mora River, west of I-25 at Watrous. Alexander Barclay opened his trading fort here in 1849; it also served as a stage station for a time.
The Sapello stage station is just southwest of Watrous on the west bank of the Sapello River. Originally used by the Barlow & Sanderson Stage Company, this building has been somewhat remodeled to serve as a private residence. Wagon ruts are still visible nearby. Just north of the stage station is the probable junction of the Mountain and Cimarron routes.
The Sapello River crossing is on the present road south of the Sapello stage station.
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.