Find Your Park! Itinerary for Western Arkansas and Oklahoma

Arrival in Indian Territory, Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation

Each site in this itinerary focuses on the western end of the Trail of Tears as detachments arrived in Indian Territory. Water route detachments passed by Fort Smith and with one glance left behind the US and entered Indian Territory.

Use this itinerary to retrace the path of those arriving in Indian Territory and rebuilding the Cherokee Nation. Depending on how much time you spend at each site, this is a one- or two-day itinerary.

Contact each site for visiting information, including hours of operation.

Prior to Forced Removal

Some Cherokee recognized the likelihood of forced removal and moved west to Arkansas prior to the Trail of Tears in 1838-1839. Still faced with discrimination those Cherokee relocated again, this time to Indian Territory (part of today’s Oklahoma). These “Old Settlers” established their own government.

Others who chose to leave early included those in the Treaty Party, a dissident group of Cherokee that negotiated a treaty with the federal government (signed at New Echota in 1835) accepting millions of dollars and agreeing to move west. Some of these party members traveled in the B. B. Cannon detachment that passed through Cane Hill in 1837.

Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee syllabary (alphabet), moved to Indian Territory before forced removal. He built his cabin near Sallisaw in 1829. He was an active advocate for Cherokee Nation political reunification in their new lands.

Indian Territory

After the 1838-1839 detachments crossed into Indian Territory many went to designated disbandment depots such as the one near Stilwell. The Treaty of New Echota promised one year of subsistence provisions yet supplies were irregular. Many Cherokee lived in tents waiting for their first year’s crops.

Cherokee transported not only themselves but also their lifestyle, as is illustrated at the Murrell home in Park Hill (near Tahlequah) and the stories told in Webbers Falls. The last detachment of Cherokee to leave their homelands arrived at Webber Falls before heading north to a disbandment site near Tahlequah.

A visit to the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill connects the Trail of Tears to the modern visitor, highlighting what the Cherokee endured and how they are still a nation—the largest tribal nation in the US.

Fort Smith National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Fort Smith witnessed life on the edge of Indian Territory, and the park tells its stories through the experiences of soldiers, outlaws, and lawmen. For those on the Trail of Tears, it was the last point of federal land before entering Indian Territory.

The site has in-depth exhibits about Indian removal. A trail leads visitors to the Arkansas River and an overlook on the river—where the Cherokee on the water route passed just before entering Indian Territory (today’s eastern Oklahoma). Take a little time and reflect on the lives of those that passed this way.

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Stories of the Trail of Tears

History and Culture

Contact infomation and directions:

301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72901; 479-783-3961

Webbers Falls (Oklahoma)

Webbers Falls was a Cherokee settlement prior to the forced removal of 1838-1839.

There are several sites in Webbers Falls to visit related to the Trail of Tears. Begin at the waterfront and learn more about how the geography of the area shaped Cherokee settlement and the growth of a Cherokee town prior to the forced removal. Learn more by viewing the waterfront exhibits and imagining the scene as the John Drew detachment landed near here by steamboat.

Contact infomation and directions:

Waterfront and exhibits:
River Road, Webbers Falls, Oklahoma 74470, Coordinates: 35.513, -95.127

Historical society:
301 Commercial Street (corner of Commercial and Main), Webbers Falls, Oklahoma; 918-464-2728

Town of Webbers Falls:

Trail of Tears Association (located in Webbers Falls/Gore):

Cane Hill (Oklahoma)

Some members of the Treaty Party (a group that made a treaty with the US government without full Cherokee agreement) moved west in 1837 in the B. B. Cannon contingent. Cannon mentions Cane Hill in his correspondence and diary. He referred to passing local landmarks and people as well as the sad loss and burial of three children.

Contact infomation and directions:

There is a historical marker at an old rock school located where Arkansas Highways 156 and 59 join, nine miles east of Stilwell near Evansville.

Summary of the Cannon route through Cane Hill with documentary notes:

Read more about the dedication of the historical marker:

More information about Cane Hill and additional places to go to visit or retrace the Trail of Tears in Arkansas can be found at:

Sequoyah’s Cabin (Oklahoma)

Sequoyah was born in Tennessee about 1778. Though lame in one leg, he was a skilled blacksmith and silversmith as well as an artist. Sequoyah first experimented with a written alphabet for the Cherokee language in 1809, finishing in 1821.

Sequoyah built this one-room log cabin shortly after moving to Oklahoma in 1829. Learn more about his efforts to reunite the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.

Contact infomation and directions:

Sequoyah's Cabin, 470288 Highway 101, Sallisaw, OK 74955; 918-775-2413

Stilwell (Oklahoma)

When Cherokee detachments arrived in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), each had a designated dispersal or disbandment site. Mrs. Webbers’ plantation was located near present-day Stilwell on what is now New Hope Cemetery. There were five disbandment sites.

Contact infomation and directions:

Stop first at the Old Railroad Depot, which houses the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association. There is an exhibit outside the depot with directions to the historic disbandment site.

1 South Highway 59, Stilwell, Oklahoma; (918) 696-2535

View this article to learn more about the depot:

You could also preview the exhibits at the Stilwell Depot and Stilwell/New Hope Cemetery:

Cherokee Heritage Center (Oklahoma)

Time travel to Diligwa, a re-created 1710 Cherokee Village on the historic grounds of the Cherokee Heritage Center. Visit the permanent exhibit about the Trail of Tears designed in conjunction with the National Park Service and the Cherokee Heritage Center, which explores the forced removal of our ancestors from their indigenous territory to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Contact infomation and directions:

Located six miles south of downtown Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Take highway 62 to historical Park Hill, turn east on Willis Road to South Keeler Drive.

21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, Oklahoma 74452; 918.456.6007 or 888.999.6007

Sign up for the official Cherokee Compass: a self-guiding tour booklet that takes you to four museums and other sites in the Cherokee Nation. You can receive stamps in your Compass booklet at each site.

Follow the Cherokee Byway farther into Indian Territory (today’s Cherokee Nation):

George M. Murrell Home (Oklahoma)

George Michael Murrell chose to move with his wife's family to Indian Territory. While the house dates to 1845, it is a result of Indian removal and the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The historic house and museum are in Park Hill, near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in the Cherokee Nation. It was built in 1845 and most likely constructed by enslaved African Americans brought west by their owners. It spotlights the elite among the Cherokee in the mid-1800s.

More about the home:

Contact infomation and directions:

19479 East Murrell Home Road, Park Hill, OK 74451; 918-456-2751

Fort Gibson State Historic Site (Oklahoma)

Fort Gibson served a pivotal role in the political, social, and economic upheaval that marked the westward expansion of the United States. Active from 1824 through 1890, it was at first the westernmost US military fort and was a key to US military strategy, inasmuch as the fort held more soldiers than any other fort located west of the Mississippi River.

In 1832 Congress created a commission to relocate the Indians from the East to Indian Territory. The commission made its headquarters at Fort Gibson, and for the remainder of the decade it negotiated treaties with the local native tribes in order to prepare them for the impending changes in their surroundings. The fort was a dispersal site for the Seminole and Creek Indians after their long journey from their homes in the southeastern United States.

Fort Gibson Historic Site is a national historic landmark managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The site includes the fort as well as a museum, gift shop, and walking trail. The log stockade is a reconstruction but four stone buildings at the fort are original and restored.

Contact infomation and directions:

Open to the public; call for hours. 907 N. Garrison, on Oklahoma Highway 80 at the north edge of Fort Gibson; (918) 478-4088

Last updated: November 17, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

National Trails Intermountain Region
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
PO Box 728

Santa Fe, NM 87504


(505) 988-6098

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