Without a doubt the Santa Fe Trail appeals to a great many history buffs who are interested in the days of covered wagons, Indians and the settlement of the southwest. From the very beginning of the Trail in 1821 when William Becknell departed from Old Franklin, Missouri with a small caravan of pack animals, to the first wagon train in 1822, to the modern day covered wagons, the large eighteen wheelers, tons of trade goods were and still are carried along the Santa Fe Trail in a steady stream just as it was in the mid 1850s.
There are place along this route where Trail ruts can still be seen, creek and river crossing are still there, battle sites mark the many conflicts, forts that protected the traders and wagon trains, trading posts, springs, campsites, the many landmarks which served as guideposts, stage stations, grave sites, old homes, and long abandoned town sites.
Today these very same place are called highways or interstates, bridges for crossing rivers, police stations, convoys of eighteen wheelers, quickshops, parks and trailer parks, buildings and cities, and many other places just like in Trail days are out there just waiting for you to explore.
The Santa Fe Trail can be broken into three major routes. From the beginning of the Trail in Old Franklin, Missouri to Dodge City, Kansas was the main route west. At Dodge City the Trail split into two other major routes. The Mountain Route continued west from Dodge City to La Junta, Colorado. Near Bent's Fort it turned south-southwest to Trinidad, over Raton Pass and on into New Mexico and the end of the trail, the Plaza in Santa Fe.
Back in Kansas there were several crossings of the Arkansas River stretching from near Great Bend, Kansas to near the Kansas/Colorado border. These routes were called the Cimarron Cutoff. The one thing these routes had in common was the fact they were all headed for a place called Lower or Wagon Bed Spring on the Cimarron river, about 10 miles south of Ulysses, Kansas. From this point the route went southwest to near Wagon Mound to join up with the Mountain Route and on into Santa Fe.
The following list of Santa Fe Trail sites is by no means every site that can be seen and explored along the Santa Fe Trail Trail. But this list is a starting point for the modern day traveler. The many museums along or near the trail have more information about what to see and do in their area, it is wise to use them. This is part of the adventure and mystery of the Santa Fe Trail, finding a new and exciting place.
One thing we would like to stress. The Santa Fe Trail and the sites listed on these pages are for the most part on "private property" we ask that you treat them as you would your own. Thank you and enjoy!
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
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Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.