Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail Net
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“The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!” Welcome to SFTNet, the latest manifestation of the Santa Fe Trail saga. This service is designed for trail buffs, students, researchers, travelers on the trail–in short, anyone with an interest in historic or contemporary developments along the Santa Fe Trail. What Is The Santa Fe Trail? As many who read this introduction will know, the Santa Fe Trail is an ancient land route of communication between the desert Southwest of what is now the United States and the prairies and plains of central North America. In the Southwest it was also part of a longer route that ran down the Rio Grande into what is now northern Mexico. American Indian peoples used the route to trade the agricultural produce of the Rio Grande Valley and the bounty of the plains, such as jerked buffalo meat and buffalo hides. When the Spanish conquistador Onate came to New Mexico in 1598, he and his soldiers followed this ancient route as they explored the plains and traded with the peoples there. During the next two centuries the Spanish gained an intimate knowledge of the plains and the routes between the Mississippi-Missouri river systems and the Southwest. Then, in 1821, a trader from Missouri, William Becknell, came to Santa Fe along what was to become known as the historical route of the Santa Fe Trail. He opened the Santa Fe Trail as a commercial route between what was then the western reaches of the United States and New Mexico, which had just become a northern province of the newly independent Republic of Mexico. For the next fifty years or so, until the arrival of the railroad in New Mexico in 1878-1879, thousands of caravans a year crossed back and forth along the trail. Some of these commercial expeditions originated with Hispano entrepreneurs in New Mexico who went to Missouri to procure goods. Others originated in Missouri, where merchants loaded goods to sell in New Mexico. Until 1846, the Arkansas River was the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. In the war fought between these two nations beginning that year, the United States acquired most of what is now its southwest. After that war, a great deal of the traffic along the Santa Fe Trail was of supplies for the United States Army, being taken to its posts in New Mexico, Arizona and west Texas. Today, the Santa Fe Trail lives on in legend and in fact. The Santa Fe Trail Association, with over 1500 members throughout the United States, works to preserve, protect and interpret the trail and its history. In 1987 the Congress of the United States created the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, which operates as a unit of the National Park Service. This agency also is concerned with the preservation and interpretation of the trail, working with local land owners, civic and state agencies and others to preserve sites along the trail and make its story accessible to the public.

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