The Santa Fe Trail
by Vickie McDonough
While most people have heard of the Oregon Trail and its many hazards, not as many know about the other main trail that cut across the heart of America.
The Santa Fe Trail was America’s first commercial highway. In September of 1821, William Becknell, a trader and veteran of the War of 1812, left Missouri with a small group of traders and a cargo of goods. They arrived in Santa Fe in November, much to the delight of the Mexican citizens, who encouraged them to return soon with more trade goods. Becknell’s original path crossed Kansas and eventually followed the Arkansas River and then crossed the treacherous Raton Mountain Pass.
The Cimarron Route, which Bucknell hoped might be quicker, followed the Arkansas River to Cimarron, Kansas, near what would later become Dodge City. From there, it trekked through southwest Kansas and the western panhandle of Oklahoma before venturing into Round Mound and Point of Rocks, New Mexico
After navigating the Glorieta Mountain Pass, the trail ended in Santa Fe. The Cimarron Route was less dangerous and about 100 miles shorter than the Mountain Route, although it wasn’t without its challenges. Water could be scarce along this barren, desert path and Indian raids were common.
The Santa Fe Trail was mainly a trade route but saw its share of immigrants, especially during the California and the Pike’s Peak gold rushes. Santa Fe trade brought to the United States much-needed silver and gave America the Missouri mule. The trail also became an important route for stagecoach travel, stagecoach mail delivery and as a mail route for the famed Pony Express. On February 9, 1880 a Santa Fe Railway Company train arrived with considerable fanfare at the Santa Fe railroad depot and effectively ended the Santa Fe Trail.
You can still find actual wagon ruts and remains of the forts that were built along the trail, as well as interesting sights like Pawnee Rock and the fascinating Mahaffie Stage Stop in Olathe, KS. (http://www.mahaffie.org) If you’re traveling this summer and would like to visit some other historical sites along the Santa Fe Trail, check out this link: http://www.santafetrailresearch.com/sft/tours.html
Check out my new story, Julia, about a woman raised on an isolated farm, who discovers new adventures, hardships, and first-time love on the Santa Fe Trail.
Vickie McDonough is the best-selling author of 50 books and novellas. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best and the Inspirational Choice awards. Visit her on social media.
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