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The Santa Fe Trail, 1821-2021: 200 Years of Commerce, Conflict, & Culture

An infographic describing the Santa Fe Trail bicentennial. Described in the text below.
Text and image description can be found below this image.

Image/NPS

Why 1821?

The Spanish Crown discouraged foreign trade with the province of Nuevo México. Newly-independent Mexico reversed this policy in 1821, and Becknell's trip marked the first legal trade between the US and New Mexico.

A Successful Journey

Becknell's journey was successfuI, and returned to Franklin with $6000 in profit. He promptly began planning a second trip.

934 Miles

Becknell’s party travelled 934 miles to reach Santa Fe, crossing the Raton mountain pass.

8-10 weeks

For most, it took 8-10 weeks to travel from Independence or Westport, Missouri.

2-way highway

Though Becknell’s original route was from Missouri to Santa Fe, traffic was multi-directional.

Impacts

Not only did the Trail move goods, but it also spread ideas, cultures, and people.

Wagon Life

Conestoga Wagons could hold 2-3 tons and were pulled primarily by mules & oxen. In some places, you can still see the ruts left by wagons, animals & people.

Trail’s End

By 1866, the trail became shorter as the railroad pushed Westward. In 1880 the railroad reached Santa Fe, ending the trail.

Timeline of 1821 Santa Fe Trail Journey

1821 - September 1

William Becknell’s party begin their journey

1821 - September 27

Mexican Independence opens Santa Fe to trade

1821 - November 13

A New Mexican militia meets & escorts the party to Santa Fe

1821 - November 16

Becknell’s party arrives in Santa Fe

1822 - December 13 - January 30

Becknell travels back to Franklin, Missouri

Description of Map

The map shows the route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail which begins in Franklin, Missouri and crosses Kansas where it splits into two routes. The mountain route crosses the southeastern corner of Colorado and the Cimarron Route crosses the northwestern corner of Oklahoma. The two routes meet in New Mexico before reaching Santa Fe.

Last updated: November 5, 2020