Stretching from northeast Kansas to the southwest corner of the state the Santa Fe Trail traversed much of the Kansas landscape. From the rolling wooded hills around what is now Kansas City it moved southwest through prairie grasslands into the arid High Plains where its different branches crossed over into Colorado or Oklahoma taking travellers to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Opened in the early 1820s by the "Father of the Santa Fe Trail," William Becknell, the Trail played a vital role in developing and settling areas through which it passed. Forts, trading points and small settlements grew up along the route providing stopping places and protection for commerce and settlers moving from the eastern United States into what would eventually become the Southwest. Textiles and hardware were traded west. Silver and mules were traded east.
As use of the Trail increased so did conflicts along its routes. Native Americans, merchants, settlers and Mexican, American and Republic of Texas troops fought along the trail or used it as a means of invasion or defense. Forts were established and troops patrolled to keep the peace.
Use of the Santa Fe Trail dwindled with arrival of the first railroad in Santa Fe in 1880 only to be revived in a way by the advent of the motor vehicle traffic on highways laid out on paths similar to the old Santa Fe Trail through the region.
Today the US National Parks Service oversees the Santa Fe National Historic Trail providing a system of road signs directing travelers to significant locations along the way including sites where they can view wagon ruts still imprinted on the land.
Below are some links to information on the Santa Fe Trail with an emphasis on Kansas.
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
(National Park Service website)
Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail Center
(An American Association of Museums accredited institution located in Larned, Kansas, operated by the Fort Larned Historical Society)
Santa Fe Trail Association
(The Santa Fe Trail Association is composed of people who are bound together by an interest in the fascinating saga of the Trail, and an interest in preserving its many physical traces and landmarks that still exist upon the face of the American West)
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
(Developed and maintained by Larry & Carolyn, St. John Kansas)
Interactive Santa Fe Trail
(A Kansas Heritage site)
The Santa Fe Trail Lives On
SANTA FE TRAIL IN OTHER STATES
Santa Fe Trail in Colorado
Santa Fe Trail in Missouri
(52 minute long video provided at the Missouri Secretary of State's website)
Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico
Santa Fe Trail in Oklahoma
(A short bit of history on the Trail in the Oklahoma Panhandle)
Santa Fe National Historic Trail Google Books Search
Santa Fe National Historic Trail ATLAS Search
Santa Fe Trail Bibliography (Kansas State Historical Soc.)