The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transporta-
tion route through central North America that connect-
ed Missouri with Santa Fe de Nuevo México.
Pioneered in 1822 by William Becknell, it served as
a vital commercial and military highway until the
introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. At
first an international trade route between the United
States and Mexico, it was the 1846 U.S. Invasion
route of New Mexico during the Mexican–American
The route crossed Comancheria, the territory of the
Comanches, who demanded compensation for
granting rights-of-way. Americans routinely traded
with the Comanche along the trail, sometimes
finding the trade in Comancheria more profitable
than that of Santa Fe.
After the U.S. acquisition of the Southwest, the trail helped open the region to U.S. economic development and settlement, playing a vital
role in the expansion of the U.S. into the lands it had acquired. The road route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as
the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. A highway route that roughly follows the trail's path through the entire length of Kansas,
the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico has been designated as the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway.
Segments of this trail in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The
longest clearly identifiable section of the trail, Santa Fe Trail Remains, near Dodge City, Kansas, is listed as a National Historic
Landmark. Walking on the Santa Fe trail is now discouraged.
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