The Santa Fe Trail

Historical marker in Cimarron Crossing Park
Cimarron, Gray county


Cimarron, settled in 1878, got its name as the starting point at one time of the shorter Cimarron or dry route to Santa Fe. Here the Santa Fe divided, one branch heading directly southwest, the other (present US-50) following the Arkansas river to Bent's Fort (near La Junta Colo.) then south over Raton Pass.

William Becknell first traveled the dry route with a pack train via the Cimarron River in 1822, carrying trade goods to Mexico, newly freed from Spain. By 1824, wagons creaked along with loads of calico, guns, tools and shoes to exchange for silver, furs, wool, and mules. Trade became of such importance the in 1825 the government surveyed the route in U. S. territory north of the river, and the Upper Crossing, near Choteau's Island in Kearny County, was recommended because of the shorter distance between the rivers. But despite the danger, the Middle Crossing -- various points in the Cimarron-Ingalls area -- was used the most.

Usually waterless and subject to Indian attacks, the 60 miles of trackless prairie between the Arkansas and the Cimarron was called by the Mexicans Jornada Del Muerte, or Journey of Death.

Gray County Historical Society - 1980

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February 9, 1999 / Bob Walter / Wichita, Kansas / history@kslib.info

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