The Santa Fe Trail
In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail was opened as a commercial route between Missouri and New Mexico by William Becknell and his party of five traders. The famous “Commerce of the Prairies” developed and grew until the railroad reached Santa Fe in 1880. The Trail was a route of conquest during the war with Mexico, 1846-1848, was the scene of significant Civil War actions, 1861-1865, and was in the middle of the Indian Wars of the 1860s and 1870s.
It provided a path for the settlement and change of the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. Considered the most important commercial route across the Great Plains during the 19th Century, the Trail brought together a diverse mix of cultural groups. The Santa Fe Trail 200th is a commemoration of a living part of the American experience connecting people in commerce, conflict, and culture. Today, the Santa Fe Trail remains crucial to American history in its many forms and provides an opportunity for education, engagement, awareness, exploration, and discovery.