Below is a self-guided driving tour of seven sites along highways 154 and 50 which parallels the original Santa Fe Trail. A brochure is available at the Visitors Center, 400 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd. 620-225-8186.
The Santa Fe Trail tour begins on K-154/400 six miles east of Dodge City.
1. Coronado Cross Park - A 38' concrete cross commemorates the site where Coronado reportedly crossed the Arkansas River in his travels through Kansas in 1541. He and His party searched for Quivira, said to be a land of fabled riches. About ten miles east of this site, where K-154 crosses the river, is the Lower Crossing of the Arkansas River used by Santa Fe Trail travelers, one of several crossings of the river. The area from here to the Cimarron River was known as the Cimarron Desert or La Jornada. Travelers did not use the Lower Crossing after the early 1830's because the distance from the Arkansas to the Cimarron River is shorter from the Middle and Upper Crossings. A later established Dry Route from near Fort Larned to the site where Fort Dodge now stands joined the main trail west of this crossing.
E. Hwy. U.S. 154/400 - 620-227-2121
Museum/Library open Daily 1-4 p.m.
Self-guided walking tour signs on grounds
Fort Dodge, located five miles east of Dodge City, served as a supply depot and base of operation against warring Indians from 1865-1882. It is now a Kansas Soldier's Home.
3. Fort Mann Site Marker-Drive 1.0 miles west on Hwy 50/400 from a KS State Historical marker, "Dodge City, Cowboy Capitol," located on the west end of W. Wyatt Earp Blvd./50/400 and turn left on 108 Rd; drive 0.2 miles south (one block) and turn right; Ft. Mann marker is 0.4 miles west of Kettle Way St. on south side of road. Fort Mann, established in April 1847, and located midway between Fort Leavenworth and Santa Fe, New Mexico, served as a quartermaster repair station for wagons and a post to replace animals. Daniel P. Mann, a wagonmaster, directed the construction of a log stockade for protection of the fort. Although not a regular military post, occasionally regular troops occupied Fort Mann such as the Indian Battalion of Missouri Volunteers in 1847-1848. It was abandoned in 1848. No evidence of the Fort remains today. F - Drive 1.0 miles west on Hwy 50/400 from a KS State Historical marker, "Dodge City, Cowboy Capitol," located on the west end of W. Wyatt Earp Blvd./50/400 and turn left on 108 Rd; drive 0.2 miles south (one block) and turn right; Ft. Mann marker is 0.4 miles west of Kettle Way St. on south side of road. Fort Mann, established in April 1847, and located midway between Fort Leavenworth and Santa Fe, New Mexico, served as a quartermaster repair station for wagons and a post to replace animals. Daniel P. Mann, a wagonmaster, directed the construction of a log stockade for protection of the fort. Although not a regular military post, occasionally regular troops occupied Fort Mann such as the Indian Battalion of Missouri Volunteers in 1847-1848. It was abandoned in 1848.No evidence of the Fort remains today.
4. Fort Atkinson Site Marker - Drive 0.4 miles west on Kettle Way St. from Ft. Mann marker --marker is located at end of Kettle Way St.. Originally established as Camp Mackay on August 8, 1850, to control Indians and to protect the Santa Fe Trail, the military officially designated the fort as Fort Atkinson on June 15,1851. Constructed of sod, the fort was popularly known as "Fort Sod" or "Fort Sodom." The first fully garrisoned fort to be erected along the Santa Fe Trail, its mission was to protect the trail from Indian raids. The military abandoned Ft. Atkinson permanently in October, 1854, because of its inadequate buildings and the difficulty and expense of supplying it. Nothing remains of the military Fort today. Summer patrols of troops attempted to protect this section of the Santa Fe Trail from 1855-1859.
5. The Caches Site Marker - Drive 2.1 miles west of KS St. Historical marker located on the west end of W. Wyatt Earp Blvd. A marker on the north side of U.S. 50/400 indicates the general location of this site. (or drive 1.0 miles from 108 Rd. taken to view Ft. Atkinson/Ft. Mann sites.) The Caches was a noted landmark and rest stop on the trail. Numerous trail travelers commented on these famous pits dug in 1822 by a trading party led by James Baird and Samuel Chambers. Baird and Chambers set out from Missouri late in 1822 when a blizzard stranded their pack train near this site for three months. They lost most of their pack animals and in he early spring of 1823, they dug pits to cache their goods and proceeded to Taos, New Mexico, to purchase mules. One their return trip to dig up the goods, a war party of Pawnees attacked the men. However, they accomplished their mission and returned to Taos. The pits remained open and became a landmark on the trail for many years, although no evidence of them remains today.
5a. Middle (Cimarron) Crossings - The middle Crossings of the Arkansas River to the Cimarron River extended from the Caches site to as far as Charleston, 26 miles farther west. No crossings are visible today because of sandy soils and frequent floods. Wagons crossed the Arkansas River virtually anywhere in this region due to its shallow flows. Numerous Indian attacks during the trail era occurred at the MIddle Crossings. U.S. 50/400 along the Arkansas River closely follows the Mountain Branch of the trail and passes by the crossing sites. Much of the trail traffic followed the Cimarron route until shortly after the Civil War.
6. Point of Rocks - About 2.0 miles beyond the caches site and on the north side of U.S. 50/400 is a rounded hill with a large rocky face protruding on the south end. Called Point of Rocks -- the first of several along the trail -- it was a major landmark for trail travelers. Two of the earliest trading expeditions to New Mexico, the Cooper party outbound and the Fowler party returning to Missouri, met here on June 12, 1822. A highway widening improvement project in 1981 destroyed much of the famous rock protrusion.
7. Santa Fe Trail Ruts - This excellent set of ruts is nine miles west of Dodge City on the north side of U.S. 5/400. (or 5 miles west of Point of Rocks location.) The ruts (1821-1872), formed by constant use from freight wagons and other heavily laden wagons, are deep swales that are still visible today. The Santa Fe Trail varied in width from a mile in some places to just a few feet in others. The westward expansion of the railroad replaced the well worn earth tracks with steel rails. The Kansas Highway Department has provided a turnout and parking area for easy access and visitors may walk to the site of the parallel tracks.
Come visit us in Dodge City, Kansas