The Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Saturday, 7 July 2012 - 01:12 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Bon voyage, Museums, Exhibitions, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks
Reading Time:  4 minutes

Map of Santa Fe Trail © US National Park Service

Map of Santa Fe Trail © US National Park Service

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, it served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. At first an international trade route between the United States and Mexico, it was the 1846 U.S. invasion route of New Mexico during the Mexican-American War.

The route crossed Comancheria, the territory of the Comanches, who demanded compensation for granting rights-of-way. Americans routinely traded with the Comanche along the trail, sometimes finding the trade in Comancheria more profitable than that of Santa Fe.

After the U.S. acquisition of the Southwest, the trail helped open the region to U.S. economic development and settlement, playing a vital role in the expansion of the U.S. into the lands it had acquired. The road route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. A highway route that roughly follows the trail’s path through the entire length of Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico has been designated as the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway.

Santa Fe Trail around 1845 plus connecting trading routes to commercial hubs and ports in the USA © US National Park Service Santa Fe National Historic Trail © US National Park Service Map of Santa Fe Trail © US National Park Service
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Santa Fe Trail around 1845 plus connecting trading routes to commercial hubs and ports in the USA © US National Park Service
The Santa Fe Trail was established in 1821 to take advantage of new trade opportunities with Mexico which had just won independance from Spain in the Mexican War of Independence. The trail was used to haul manufactured goods from the state of Missouri in the United States to Santa Fe which was in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo.

Travelers faced many hardships along the Santa Fe Trail. The trail was a challenging 900 miles (1,400 km) of arid plains, desert and mountains. On this trail unlike the Oregon trail, there was a serious danger of Native American attacks, for neither the Comanches or the Apaches of southern high plains tolerated trespassers. In 1825, Congress voted federal protection for the Santa Fe Trail, even though much of it lay in the Mexican territory. Lack of food and water also made the trail very risky. Weather conditions, like huge lightning storms, gave the travelers even more difficulty. If a storm blew up, there was often no place to take shelter and the livestock could get spooked. Rattlesnakes often posed a threat as many people died due to snakebite. The caravan size increased later on to prevent Indian raids. The travelers also packed more oxen instead of mules because the Indians did not want to risk raiding the caravans for only some oxen.

Segments of this trail in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The longest clearly identifiable section of the trail, Santa Fe Trail Remains, near Dodge City, Kansas, is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Walking on the Santa Fe trail is now discouraged.

Read more on Santa Fe National Historic Trail, Santa Fe Trail Center, Santa Fe Trail Association and Wikipedia Santa Fe Trail.


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