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Markers along Santa Fe Trail allow visitors to retrace history

Staff writer

Historical sites throughout northern Marion County provide an opportunity to learn about a vital commercial route that spurred westward expansion.

Active through this area from 1821 to 1866, the Santa Fe Trail was a commercial route between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and provided shipment of goods and settlers from Europe and the East Coast to the Southwest and Mexico.

From the late-1840s to the mid-1860s, yearly usage grew from 3,000 to more than 5,000 freight wagons.

The trail, based on routes established by native tribes, was used by the military to transport personnel and supplies.

Traffic eventually dwindled after the railroad came to Junction City in 1866.

Lost Spring Station

The first major tourist stop within the county is Lost Spring Station on 340th Rd., 3½ miles west of the Lost Springs exit on US-56/77. A turnoff on the north side of the road allows visitors to view a monument and read a history of the site.

A mowed path runs from the site through private property to a spring that comes out of the east bank of the nearby creek.

Cottonwood Crossing

The second major stop is Cottonwood Crossing, 1½ miles west of Durham at 290th and Falcon Rds.

The site celebrates the trail’s crossing of the Cottonwood River. Three panels provide information. One tells of Zebulon Pike’s camping in the area on his westward explorations, another gives facts about Cottonwood River crossings, and the third tells of road ranches that were established to serve travelers along the trail.

A sign marking the site as an official stop on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail was erected in September 2012.

Santa Fe/Chisholm Trails

A stone marker a few yards north of US-56 at the McPherson County line depicts how the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Chisholm Trail about 1¼ miles to the northeast.

Brochures providing a guide map of an auto tour of the Santa Fe Trail through Marion County are available at all three stops.

Last modified June 4, 2015

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