Main Branch of the Santa Fe Trail
Kansas State Line to Dodge City, Kansas

Kansas Sites

  1. State of Kansas
         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.

  2. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
         Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi River, has devoted more than 170 years of service to the nation. During the country's westward expansion, Fort Leavenworth was a forward destination for thousands of soldiers, surveyors, emigrants, American Indians, preachers and settlers who passed through.

  3. Shawnee Mission
         The Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission is at Mission Road and 53rd Street in Fairway, Kansas, just a few blocks west of State Line Road. Begun in 1830 in present Wyandotte County, it was relocated in 1839 to its present site in Johnson County near a branch of the Santa Fe Trail originating in Westport. The remains of three original brick mission buildings are now owned by the state of Kansas, administered by the Kansas State Historical Society, and operated as a museum. Trail ruts are still visible to the north of these buildings. The blacksmith shop of the mission was reportedly used by trail travelers, many of whom mentioned the mission and the Shawnee Indians on whose reservation it stood.

  4. Grinter House and Ferry
         The Grinter house and ferry sites are east of the city of Bonner Springs on Kansas Highway 32. The first ferry across the Kansas River was started in this vicinity in 1830 or 1831 by Moses Grinter, and it was used by Fort Leavenworth troops to reach the Santa Fe Trail. The ferry was important to the Fort Gibson-Fort Leavenworth military road, opened in the 1830s. This became a major branch of the Santa Fe Trail until the Mexican War and was also used after that time, although other branches from Fort Leavenworth were opened. The two-story brick house was built by Moses Grinter on the northern bluff above the Kansas River in the late 1850s. Today this house is fully restored, owned by the state of Kansas, and administered by the Kansas State Historical Society as a museum. In the 1850s the stagecoach line from Independence to Fort Leavenworth and beyond also crossed the river on the Grinter ferry. The site of the ferry can still be viewed from the Grinter house, although its precise location is not known.

  5. Mahaffie Farmstead
         The Mahaffie farmstead is on the north edge of the city of Olathe at 1100 Kansas City Road. The farmstead was a stage station on the road from Westport, and dinners were served in the basement of the house. The two-story native limestone house was constructed in 1865 and is the only known Santa Fe Trail stage station that is open to the public. It is owned and operated by the city of Olathe.

  6. Lone Elm Campground
         The Lone Elm campground is 3 miles south of Olathe on Lone Elm Road, on the main branch of the Santa Fe Trail from Independence. There was a spring here (now enclosed in a small well) and excellent grazing for livestock. Originally known as Round Grove or Elm Grove because of a grove of trees, the campground was a major campsite for travelers, who eventually cut down all the trees except one for firewood, resulting in its name "Lone Elm." The last tree was also finally cut down, but the name endured.

  7. Santa Fe Trail - Oregon Trail Junction
         The junction of the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail is approximately 2 miles west of the town of Gardner on US Highway 56, and 0.25 mile to the north. At this point the Santa Fe and Oregon trails separated after following the same route from Independence, Missouri. In the 1840s a sign, which said "Road to Oregon," was erected at this site.

  8. Black Jack Park Ruts
         A dramatic set of parallel ruts are located in Douglas County Prairie Park, adjacent to Black Jack State Park east of Baldwin City. These are among the finest along the entire length of the trail.

  9. The Narrows
         The Narrows ran from just west of present Black Jack State Park east of Baldwin City to the site of Willow Spring some 9 miles west. Wagon trains had to stay on this ridge to avoid rough terrain and muddy draws.

  10. Palmyra Well
         The Palmyra well is within present-day Baldwin City, Kansas, to the east of the high school. The community of Palmyra grew along the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s, and the well provided water for trail travelers and their livestock. Palmyra has long since been absorbed into Baldwin City, but its presence on the Santa Fe Trail has been commemorated with markers nearby, and the well is identified today as the Santa Fe well. One mile to the northwest is Trail Park, which contains interpretive markers; just beyond the park are stretches of county roads that lie on the trail.

  11. Blue Mound
         Blue Mound is approximately 3 miles south of Lawrence, Kansas. This prominent hill, which is south of the Kansas River, served as a landmark for travelers on their way to the Santa Fe Trail along the 1846 military road from Fort Leavenworth. Blue Mound is the larger and more prominent of two hills that are sometimes referred to as the Wakarusa Buttes.

  12. Simmons Point Stage Station
         The Simmons Point stage station is north of US Highway 56 and 12 miles west of Baldwin City. The stage station itself remains today as part of a privately owned farmhouse that has been abandoned. The station was operated by Phillip and Elmira Dodder Simmons, but its actual dates of operation are unknown.

  13. McGee-Harris Stage Station
         The McGee-Harris stage station is about 1 mile south of US Highway 56 on the east bank of 110 Mile Creek and east of Burlingame, Kansas. This stage station was started in the 1850s by Fry McGee, who also erected a toll bridge over 110 Mile Creek here. McGee's son-in-law, named Harris, built a residence and store nearby, and following the death of McGee, he operated the station from 1861 to 1866, when this segment of the trail closed. Crumbled building remains are all that are left today of the stage station, residence, and store.

  14. Switzler Creek Crossing
         The Switzler Creek crossing is at the eastern edge of the town of Burlingame, Kansas, very near the present-day US Highway 56 bridge. A toll bridge was operated here from 1847 to the 1860s, and it was at Burlingame that the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway made its first contact with the Santa Fe Trail in 1869. The trail went down the main street of Burlingame.

  15. Dragoon Creek Crossing
         The Dragoon Creek crossing is 3 miles northwest of Burlingame and north of Kansas Highway 31. This site is a natural rock crossing point on Dragoon Creek. The creek itself is reported to have been named after a troop of dragoons who came over the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s, or possibly for a dragoon, Samuel Hunt, whose grave is located just to the west. This natural crossing still appears as it did in the trail days.

  16. Havana Stage Station
         The Havana stage station is about 1 mile west of Dragoon Creek and just south of Kansas Highway 31. Reportedly built in 1858, this station was complemented by a store and a hotel. Today the hotel and store are gone, and only the remains of the stage station are discernible, although the Heart of the Flint Hills Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail is planning to restore it.

  17. Samuel Hunt Grave
         The Samuel Hunt grave is just north of Kansas Highway 31 and about 0.5 mile west of the Havana stage station site. Private Samuel Hunt, U.S. Army Dragoons, served with Colonel Henry Dodge's Rocky Mountain expedition in 1835 and died at this location on the return march to Fort Leavenworth. This is the earliest known gravesite of a soldier on the Santa Fe Trail.

  18. Soldier Creek Crossing
         The Soldier Creek crossing is southwest of the Samuel Hunt grave, where visible Santa Fe Trail ruts lead to the creek. The creek is reportedly named after an army unit that suffered heavy losses from cholera at this location in 1851.

  19. Wilmington
         This community was located at the junction of the Santa Fe Trail and the Military Road from Fort Leavenworth by way of Topeka. In 1857 a few settlers located at the junction, and in the next year a post office was established here. Wilmington became a thriving community, replete with several establishments catering to trail traffic. The citizens established a school district in 1861.

  20. Fort Riley, Kansas
         U.S. Cavalry Museum, located at Fort Riley, Kansas. The U.S. Cavalry Museum is part of the Army Museum System and chronicles the colorful history of the American Mounted Horse Soldier from the Revolutionary War to 1950. The building that houses the Museum was once the headquarters used by General George Armstrong Custer.

  21. Historic Council Grove, Kansas

  22. Council Oak
         The Council Oak site is in the eastern part of the town of Council Grove, Kansas, on US Highway 56. Under this oak tree it is believed that a treaty was negotiated with the Osage Indian tribe in 1825 for safe passage of Santa Fe Trail traffic through their lands. The tree itself was destroyed by a storm several years ago, but the stump remains under a protective canopy.

  23. Post Office Oak
         The Post Office Oak is in the eastern part of Council Grove on present-day US Highway 56. This oak tree had a hole in its base that was used as a cache for mail. Letters were placed in the tree by travelers and picked up by those going in the opposite direction for delivery. This "post office" was used by trail travelers from the 1820s to about 1847, when Seth Hays established a trading store at Council Grove. Today only a portion of this tree still stands.

  24. Neosho River Crossing
         The Neosho River crossing is about where US Highway 56 bridges the Neosho River at Council Grove. This was an important river crossing on the Santa Fe Trail. The steep banks and high water sometimes made crossings difficult and prompted other crossings close to the highway bridge.

  25. Hays House Restaurant (Frame Store)
         The Hays House Restaurant is on Main Street in Council Grove. Seth Hays came to Council Grove in 1847 to trade with the Kaw Indians, whose reservation was nearby. He originally built a log house, out of which he traded, and then in about 1859 he put up the large building originally called the Frame Store. It is that replacement store that has been remodeled as the Hays House Restaurant. Some of the original timbers may be seen in the basement. The building has seen many uses, including a general store, hotel, saloon, and courthouse. The restaurant claims to be the oldest restaurant west of the Missouri River.

  26. Conn/Stone/Pioneer Store
         The Conn Store is in Council Grove on the south side of US Highway 56, Main Street, at Neosho Street, in the town's business district. This store was considered to be one of the most important trading stores in Council Grove during the Santa Fe Trail era. The building was erected in 1858, and although much altered from its original state, it is still in use by a local business.

  27. Seth Hays House
         The Seth Hays house is in Council Grove about two blocks south of Main Street (US Highway 56). Built in 1866, this house was lived in by Seth Hays, his black maid, and his adopted daughter. The house is important because of Hays's prominence in Council Grove and his connection with the Santa Fe traders. It is one of the few trail homes in the area that has been preserved in nearly original condition, and it is currently operated as a museum.

  28. Kaw Mission
         The Kaw Mission is on the northern edge of the town of Council Grove. Built about 1850 as a school for Kaw Indian children, it became a school for white children when the Indians refused to send their children to classes there. It was the first all-white school in Kansas. Today the building is one of the oldest buildings still standing in this part of Kansas and is operated by the Kansas State Historical Society as a museum.

  29. Hermit's Cave
         Hermit's Cave is two blocks north of US Highway 56, (Main Street) on Belfry Street in Council Grove. On this site is a small cave that was reportedly the home of an Italian religious mystic, Giovanni Augustini, for a few months before he traveled to New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail.

  30. Last Chance Store
         Last Chance Store is west of the Council Grove business district on the north side of US Highway 56. This store has become known as the most famous, but not the largest nor the most important, trading store in Council Grove during the trail era. Built in 1857, the privately owned building remains today in a nearly original state.

  31. Terwilliger Home
         On your way out of Council Grove do like the trail day pioneers did, stop at the Historic Limestone 1861 Terwilliger Home. The Terwilliger Home is along the Santa Fe Trail in the West part of Council Grove, Ks. It was described in 1863 as the last sign of civilization as wagons were leaving Council Grove. It is a rare treasure and within is a rare Kanza Indian pictograph cut into the original walnut backdoor casing. The authorities know of no other Indian pictograph on a white persons dwelling for a white person. The Terwilliger Home has connections to the Civil War. The Terwilliger Home of yesterday is known today as Trail Days Bakery Cafe. Their food is made from scratch and they dress in costume and create a Living history experience for their guests.

  32. Diamond Spring
         Diamond Spring is near the headquarters of the Diamond Spring Ranch southwest of Council Grove. This site was a campsite favored by Santa Fe Trail travelers because of the high-quality springwater. It was known during the trail era as the "Diamond of the Plains." A stage station and small settlement grew up here prior to the Civil War, but these were destroyed in a raid by Missouri bushwhackers, led by Dick Yeager, in 1863. The station was never rebuilt, but Diamond Spring continued to be a valuable water source and popular campsite as long as the trail was active in this vicinity.

  33. Six Mile Creek Crossing and Stage Station Site
         The Six Mile Creek crossing and stage station site are on the road that runs south from US Highway 56 toward the town of Burdick, Kansas, and just south of the bridge over Six Mile Creek. Six Mile Creek was named because it is 6 miles from Diamond Spring. There are good trail ruts coming into the crossing site from the east, but the actual crossing is no longer visible. The stage station opened about 1863 after the Diamond Spring station was destroyed. The station was in use until 1866 or 1867, when the stage line moved to Junction City, Kansas, because of railroad construction. A ranching operation was headquartered at this site after the station was abandoned, and the station building served as the ranch house until after the turn of the century. Today only the basement walls and some debris from the upper stories can be seen, with some trail ruts nearby.

  34. Lost Spring
         Lost Spring is 2.3 miles west of the town of Lost Springs on the north side of a paved road. Lost Spring was a valuable source of water for trail travelers and was also used for a trading ranch, stage station, and campground. The spring still flows today, and wagon ruts are visible near the crossing of the small creek on the south side of the paved road.

  35. Cottonwood Creek Crossing
         The Cottonwood Creek crossing is about 1 mile west of the town of Durham, Kansas. This site was a major campsite on the Santa Fe Trail, but was widely known as a difficult crossing because of the steep banks and occasional high water. There were several instances when wagon trains were caught here by blizzards and suffered losses of both livestock and human lives. This was also the site of a stage station and the largest trading ranch west of Council Grove on the trail. George Smith started the stage station and trading ranch about 1856, and this site became the first post office in Marion County. A. A. and Ira Moore bought the property in 1859 and operated it until the railroad came to the area in 1870-71. Today nothing remains of the crossing or the ranch, but a few wagon ruts may still be seen northeast of Cottonwood Creek, and there is an outstanding segment of ruts southwest of this stream.

  36. Durham Ruts
         An outstanding set of ruts extends southwest to northeast across unbroken prairie land on the Scully property southwest of Durham, Kansas.

  37. Miller Grave
         The Ed Miller grave is in Jones Cemetery, which is 2.25 miles east and 0.5 mile north of Canton, Kansas. In 1864, 18-year-old Ed Miller was killed by the Cheyenne Indians as he rode to warn residents at a trading ranch that Indians were raiding in the area. He was buried near the site of his death, and the site became a cemetery after the area was settled.

  38. 1825 Kaw Treaty Site
         The site of the 1825 treaty with the Kansa Indians is 1 mile south of Elyria, Kansas, just north of a gravel road and east of Dry Turkey Creek. In 1825 the Santa Fe Trail survey commissioners met at this site with members of the Kansa or Kaw Indian tribe to negotiate permission for the trail to pass through the their lands. The Kansa then lived north of the Kansas River and east of present Manhattan, and the trail crossed only a small segment of their lands. The Kansa Indians were to have gone to Council Grove to meet with the commissioners immediately following the Osage Treaty, but they failed to arrive in time and had to follow them down the trail. The Indians caught up with the commissioners at Dry Turkey, where the treaty was signed.

  39. Little Arkansas River Crossings
         The two crossings of the Little Arkansas River are 5 miles south of US Highway 56 on county road 443 on the McPherson-Rice county line, and then 0.5 mile west. The upper crossing is marked by a cottonwood, the "Marker Cottonwood", which still stands and is surrounded by wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail caravans. The lower crossing is no longer visible. Stones were placed in the river bottom of the upper crossing to provide a firm surface for the wagons, and these stones are reportedly visible when the stream is dry. A toll bridge was built at the lower crossing in the late 1850s or early 1860s, and the areas on both sides of the river were popular campsites for trail travelers.

  40. Military Camp (Camp Grierson)
         Camp Grierson is south of the lower crossing of the Little Arkansas River and south of the present-day county road. The camp was established in the summer of 1865 to protect the crossings and the trading ranch there during a period of Indian unrest. The camp was manned once more in 1867 by one company from the black regiment of the 10th Cavalry. It was at this time that the troops established a more permanent position and named it Camp Grierson. After several months the troops were withdrawn. Some of the earthworks of the camp are still visible south of the county road on the east side of the river. Several soldiers were killed by Indians in the vicinity (some of these were deserters from units farther west) and buried near the camp, but the larger number of dead buried there were black soldiers who died of cholera while stationed at Camp Grierson. The bodies were later removed to the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, but the burial pits may still be seen south of the military campsite.

  41. Stone Corral Site
         The stone corral site is on the south side of the lower crossing of the Little Arkansas River, just north of the existing county road. This corral was probably the most famous structure at the crossings and was built in connection with the trading ranch and stage station there. Stone for the corral was quarried 2 miles away. The corral was used from the early 1860s until after the Santa Fe Trail was abandoned. At some later time the stone walls were dismantled, and the stone was used for construction at other locations. Today no trace remains of the corral.

  42. Jarvis (Chavez) Creek Crossing
         The location of the Jarvis (Chavez) Creek crossing is reportedly near the center of section 17 in Wilson Township, west of the Little Arkansas River and along Jarvis Creek in Rice County. This site is important because Antonio Jose Chavez, a Hispanic trader, was murdered here in 1843. This murder became an international incident, with ramifications in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City.

  43. Cow Creek Crossing
         The Cow Creek crossing is 4 miles west of Lyons on US Highway 56, 1 mile south, and then west to a bridge over Cow Creek. The actual crossing was just south of the present bridge. Cow Creek was an important campground and crossing where a trading ranch and stage station developed in 1858. The ranch and stage station were built east of the crossing by Asahel and Abijah Beach in 1858. A well was dug at approximately the same time to provide water for livestock and for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. A toll bridge was built over Cow Creek in 1859. The present bridge is believed to be below the site of the original, which was reportedly just north of the old crossing of Cow Creek. Looking south from the west end of the present bridge, stones for crossing the streambed were identified during the drought of 1988.

  44. Beach Ranch (Buffalo Bill's) Well
         Buffalo Bill's well is 4 miles west of Lyons, on US Highway 56 and then 1 mile south on a gravel road. At this point two gravel roads intersect, and the well is in the northwest quadrant of that intersection, very near the road. The well was originally dug to serve the Beach ranch at Cow Creek crossing, providing water for livestock as well as for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Sometime after 1860 William Mathewson, who was known as Buffalo Bill, purchased the Beach ranch, also called the Cow Creek ranch, and operated it until 1866. Mathewson was known as Buffalo Bill because he helped supply buffalo meat to starving settlers in Kansas Territory during the severe drought of 1859-60.

  45. Ralph's Ruts
         These ruts are 4 miles west of Chase, Kansas, on US Highway 56, then 0.75 mile north on the Ralph Hathaway farm. The seven parallel trail ruts are some of the finest examples of pristine trail remains any place along the entire route. Visitors to the site have easy access, a turnout for parking, and a DAR marker to point out the location. In addition, evidence indicates that the so-called Plum Buttes Massacre of 1867 occurred near the eastern boundary of the Hathaway quarter-section. Extending westerly from here, the ruts continue on intermittently for another 2 miles, where they form the spectacular Gunsight Notch, a ridge worn away by 60 years of commercial and military traffic.

  46. Plum Buttes
         The Plum Buttes were 4 miles west of Chase, Kansas, on US Highway 56, 1 mile north on a gravel road, and then 1 mile west. Plum Buttes referred to several very large sand dunes that were covered by plum bushes, These highly visible dunes became landmarks for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, who sought to avoid the soft, sandy, and nearly impassable soils along the Arkansas River. Plum Buttes was a favorite nooning spot on the trail, and because it was the only landmark in the vicinity, it was often used as a reference point to delineate the location of significant events. Thus, the 1867 massacre near Ralph's Ruts, 1 mile east, is known as the Plum Buttes Massacre. The last dune, still visible in the 1870s and 1880s, had disappeared because of wind erosion by 1900.

  47. Fort Ellsworth/Harker, Kansas
         No trip along the Santa Fe Trail would be complete without a stop in Ellsworth County and Kanopolis/Ellsworth, Kansas. The museum for Fort Ellsworth/Harker is in the town of Kanopolis, Kansas, located in the old "Guardhouse" from Fort Harker days. In the town of Ellsworth visit the Drovers Mercantile for a dose of what cowboy life was like in the 1870's in the area.

  48. Walnut Creek Crossing - Barton County, Kansas
         The Walnut Creek crossing is about 2 miles east of Great Bend and south of US Highway 56. The crossing included a trading ranch, toll bridge, and military post. When the creek flooded, wagon trains would camp on its banks for days waiting to cross. It was one of the first streams in the region to have a toll bridge.

  49. Allison and Booth's Fort or Ranch and Peacock Ranch Trading Post Site
         The sites of these small trading posts are 2 miles east of Great Bend, Kansas, and south of US Highway 56, near the Walnut Creek crossing. William Allison and Francis Booth(e), formerly conductors for Waldo, Hall and Company on the Santa Fe mail run, opened a post on the north side of the trail and east of the Walnut crossing in 1855, in the heart of Plains Indian lands. They established trade with the Plains tribes and also sold supplies to trail travelers. Booth was killed by a disgruntled employee in 1857, and Allison died in 1859 at Independence, Missouri, while on a trip to purchase supplies. George Peacock apparently acquired the trading rights from Allison's estate, and thereafter evidently constructed a new stone building as a trading post. Peacock was killed by the Kiowa war chief Satank in 1860, and the trading rights then went to Charles Rath. Rath operated the ranch until 1867, when the army ordered him out for selling arms, ammunition, and whiskey to the Indians. The Indians burned the post a few months later, and today only the foundations remain.

  50. First Fort Zarah Site
         The first Fort Zarah was established in 1864 to help protect mail service on the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was about 200 yards west of the trading ranch on the east side of Walnut Creek and north of the crossing toll bridge. This was also at or near the point where the Fort Harker-Fort Riley military road met the Santa Fe Trail. The mail station and corrals were on the south side of Walnut Creek, across the creek from the fort. The foundations of this structure have been partially excavated.

  51. Second Fort Zarah Site
         The second Fort Zarah site is on the north side of US Highway 56, about 2 miles east of Great Bend, Kansas, and about 0.5 mile east of the roadside park. This second fort was built in 1867, about 0.5 mile north of the first one. This was a more permanent post, comprised of a large stone building with quarters for officers and troops, kitchens and mess halls, storerooms, and other functions. This post was abandoned in 1869, when it was felt that the Indian threat was not sufficient to warrant a second post so close to Fort Larned.

  52. Fort Hays, Kansas
         Fort Hays was an important U.S. Army post that was active from 1865 until 1889. Originally designated Fort Fletcher (after Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri), it was located five miles south of present-day Walker, Kansas, and became operational on October 11, 1865.

  53. Barton County Historical Society
         This museum has a fine display of artifacts and other items from Fort Zarah and the Santa Fe Trail. The Ray "Jiggs" Schulz Research Library has been dedicated and will be open during Museum hours. The library will house a huge collection of rare Kansas history books and other materials, mostly donated by Mr. Schulz, and some artwork. The museum complex is located just south of the Arkansas River on US 281.

  54. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
         You've made it about half way to Santa Fe at this point. Time for a brake? After leaving the above museum continue south on US 281 to the K19 junction. Turn east to one of the most interesting drives along the Santa Fe Trail. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has two large salt marshes, and both are excellent places to look for birds such as mallards, wood ducks, pintails, white pelicans, eagles, shorebirds and more. In the right season you may even get a look at the Endangered Whooping Crane. Additionally, deer bobcats, coyotes, and other mammals are often seen lurking about during the heat of the afternoon. For a wonderful wildlife opportunity, Quivira offers an experience you won't find anywhere else in Kansas.

  55. Pawnee Rock
         Pawnee Rock is 0.5 mile north of US Highway 56 on the north edge of the town of Pawnee Rock, Kansas. Pawnee Rock was one of the best known natural features along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas. Although some of the rock was removed by settlers and the railroads for construction materials, one can still enjoy panoramic views across the prairie from this relatively high landmark. It is administered by the Kansas State Historical Society.

  56. Auto Tour of 125+ Santa Fe Trail Sites
         These pages will take you on an Auto Tour of the Santa Fe Trail from near Pawnee Rock, to nine miles west of Dodge City, Kansas on eight different routes of the area. The Tour will take you to all the major site on this section of the Trail. Also included in this Auto Tour is the Fort Hays/Fort Dodge Road. This tour takes you from Fort Hays near Hays, Kansas to Fort Dodge just east of Dodge City, Kansas. Included in this Auto Tour is the historic research project of the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail, "A Directory of Santa Fe Trail Sites" with a ton of documented historic information, maps and photos. This directory was ten years in the making and is the most complete auto tour of any section of the Santa Fe Trail.

  57. Ash Creek Crossing
         The Ash Creek crossing is 5 miles southwest of Pawnee Rock. This was not a difficult crossing, but nonetheless it developed into a campsite for Santa Fe Trail travelers. This site is historically significant because Susan Shelby Magoffin's carriage upset here and she later miscarried as a result of the accident.

  58. Sibley's Campsite & Little Red House
         In April of 1872, Booth, one of the original members of the Larned Town Company and post trader at Fort Larned, Kansas positioned wheels under one of the sutler's buildings at the fort and transported it to a location near Schnack Park in present-day Larned, Kansas.

  59. Pawnee Fork Crossings
         There were three crossings of the Pawnee Fork. One, the wet route or river road crossing, was on the southwest edge of the present town of Larned, Kansas; the second, the dry route crossing, was on the west edge of the present Larned State Hospital grounds; and the third, apparently established as a stage line crossing, was approximately 0.5 mile east of the present site of Fort Larned National Historic Site. The wet route crossing is no longer visible. The dry route crossing site may still be seen and crossed by means of a concrete dam. It was a difficult crossing at times, and a campsite was developed there. A mail and stage station was located at this crossing in 1859, and this led to the establishment of Fort Larned, first located nearer this crossing than the present military post. Just west of this crossing was a trading ranch, Boyd's Ranch, which was just off the Fort Larned Military Reservation and thus could provide off-post entertainment in the form of liquor, gambling, and prostitutes. It has not been determined when the third crossing was established or how long it was used, but it was apparently used by a stage line. The bulk of trail traffic likely used the dry route crossing where Boyd's Ranch was located.

  60. Santa Fe Trail Center
         The Santa Fe Trail Center is a nonprofit regional museum telling the story of the geographic area once known as the Santa Fe Trail. This transportation route blended Indian, Spanish, and American cultures.

  61. Fort Larned National Historic Site
         Fort Larned National Historic Site is on Kansas Highway 156, 6 miles west of Larned. Active from 1859 to 1878, Fort Larned was one of the major military installations on the Santa Fe Trail, only Fort Union in New Mexico was larger. Nine of the ten original stone buildings remain today, and the tenth was reconstructed in 1988. This is one of the best preserved frontier military posts in the American West, as well as on the entire Santa Fe Trail. Restoration and refurnishing of the fort are nearly completed. One building has been adapted to serve as museum, interpretive center, and administrative office. A set of Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts is located in a detached area 5 miles south of the fort.

  62. Coon Creek Crossing
         The Coon Creek crossing is just north of US Highway 56, about 1.5 miles west of the town of Garfield, Kansas. Wagon ruts are still visible on the north bank of the creek.

  63. Black Pool
         The Black Pool is about 4 miles northeast of Ford, Kansas, 1 mile north on Kansas 400, across the Arkansas River, 3.5 miles east on the first gravel road and then 0.5 mile south to a pasture. The well-preserved pool is about 0.25 mile into the pasture and is beside the Santa Fe Trail wet route and near the Arkansas River. Well-defined trail ruts are nearby. The Black Pool is a spring, and the water appears to be black when viewed from above because of an underlying shelf of shale. Many inscriptions have been left in the rock ledge above the pool, including one that states "BLACK POOL US POST 1843," although its authenticity has not been established. This pool is not identified in any Santa Fe Trail literature nor is it identified in military records, but the location matches that of an incident in 1843 when U.S. troops commanded by Capt. Philip St. George Cooke captured the Texan Snively expedition nearby.

  64. Lower Crossing
         The Lower Crossing of the Arkansas River is near where Kansas Highway 400 crosses the river about 1 mile north of Ford. This stream crossing was used by some early wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail, and it was one of several crossings of the Arkansas. The area from here to the Cimarron River was known as the Cimarron Desert or La Jornada. There is evidence that this was an ancient river crossing used by Indians in prehistoric times. The Lower Crossing was not used much after the early 1830s because the distance from the Arkansas to the Cimarron River was shorter from the Middle and Upper crossings. In addition the dry route, from near Pawnee Rock to the site where Fort Dodge was later established, rejoined the Arkansas River west of this crossing.

  65. Fort Dodge
         Fort Dodge is about 2.5 miles east of Dodge City on Kansas Highway 400. The post was founded in 1865 to help protect a long section of the Santa Fe Trail. The fort site had been previously used as a campsite by trail travelers because the wet and dry routes rejoined at this point. A stage station preceded the fort, but it was burned by Indians. From this fort Gen. Phil Sheridan launched his winter campaign of 1868-69, and Fort Dodge was the point from which supplies were sent by wagon train into the field for that campaign. Those supplies came to Fort Dodge via the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge road. Fort Dodge troops were also charged with the protection of stagecoaches, mail, and railroad construction crews. The fort was removed from service in 1882. Today the former fort serves as the Kansas State Soldiers Home. Several original buildings remain, including the commanding officer's quarters, several officers' quarters, enlisted men's barracks, and the post hospital. Although they have been remodeled, they illustrate army life along the Santa Fe Trail.

  66. Fort Mann Site
         The Fort Mann site is about 1 mile west of Dodge City on US Highway 50. Fort Mann was established in April 1847 because the Army needed a post midway between Fort Leavenworth and Santa Fe to repair wagons and replace animals. It was a quartermaster repair station with a log stockade for protection, and it was erected under the direction of Daniel P. Mann. Although not a regular military post, Fort Mann was defensible and occasionally occupied by regular troops, such as the Indian Battalion of Missouri Volunteers in 1847-48. it was abandoned in 1848.

  67. Fort Atkinson Site
         The Fort Atkinson site is about 2 miles west of Dodge City on US Highway 50 and was originally established as Camp Mackay on August 8, 1850, to control Indians and to protect the Santa Fe Trail. On June 25, 1851, a newly built fort was officially designated as Fort Atkinson. Being constructed of sod, it was popularly known as "Fort Sod" or "Fort Sodom," and it was the first fully garrisoned fort to be erected along the Santa Fe Trail. Its mission was to protect the trail from Indian raids. It was not successful. Atkinson was abandoned permanently on October 2, 1854, because of its inadequate buildings and the difficulty and expense of supplying it. Attempts were made to protect this section of the Santa Fe Trail with summer patrols of troops from 1855 to 1859.

  68. The Caches Site
         The Caches, located in section 29 or 30, 726S, R25W, was an oft-noted landmark on the trail. These famous pits, commented on by numerous trail travelers, were dug out in 1822-23. A trading party led by James Baird and Samuel Chambers set out from Missouri late in 1822. Their pack train was caught by a blizzard near this site. They lost their pack animals to the harsh weather. Later, in 1823, they dug pits to cache their goods, went to New Mexico to purchase mules, and came back and dug up their goods and took them to Santa Fe. The pits were left open. Numerous travelers thereafter commented about the pits, which became a landmark on the trail, although no evidence of them remains today.

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
© "Forever"