Santa Fe National Historic Trail 2021 Highlights

The Santa Fe Trail Association provided the following highlights for the Santa Fe NHT during the 2021 calendar year:

Conserving Trail Lands and Boosting Climate Resilience

Black Jack Rut Site Wayside Exhibits on Pedestrian Trail with Santa Fe Trail ruts in background. Photo by Joanne VanCoevern, Manager, SFTA

  • A new pedestrian hiking trail with interpretive wayside exhibits was opened in 2021 at the Black Jack Rut Site located in the Ivan Boyd Memorial Prairie Preserve, near Baldwin City, KS. This new trail/exhibits provides better access to one of the best preserved segments along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
  • Improvements were made at the Arrow Rock Ferry Landing Site, Arrow Rock, MO by private landowner and SFTA Board member, Rich Lawson that included new landscaping, improved access and the installation of a new interpretive wayside exhibit. These improvements were made necessary by recent flooding of the Missouri River and with these improvements, visitor access has been restored to a historically significant site on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
  • Several acres of land with Santa Fe Trail ruts south of Chase, KS has been donated to the Santa Fe Trail Center, Larned, KS and is being developed for public access with assistance from the Quivira and Wet/Dry Routes Chapters of the Santa Fe Trail Association. Plans include signage, an interpretive exhibit, development of off-road parking and access to visit the trail ruts and buffalo wallows located on the property.

Collaboration and Engagement

American Solar Challenge car leaving Bent’s Fort National Historic Site. Photo by Joanne VanCoevern, SFTA Manager

  • The 2021 American Solar Challenge (ASC) followed more than 900 miles of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail during the trail’s bicentennial year. Nine solar car teams participated in the event, which took place August 3-7, beginning in Independence, MO, and ended in Las Vegas, NM, making daily stops in communities and national parks along the route.
  • The National Trails office staff and interns (through the Student Conservation Association and American Conservation Experience) created and distributed digital and tactile promotional materials, including the American Solar Challenge event video. The Santa Fe Trail Association (SFTA) joined the ASC at their stops, setting up an information booth to provide information about the Association and the historic Santa Fe Trail, as well as the Santa Fe Trail 200th Anniversary.
  • In 2021, the SFTA also collaborated with Truckers Radio USA to produce and broadcast a podcast series, “Tales from the Trail,” which is also available via our social media platforms.
  • The SFTA presented a panel at the 2021 Western Writers of America Conference to emphasize the Trail’s 200th anniversary, and to inspire writers to consider the many topics associated with the Santa Fe Trail as future writing projects.
  • The SFTA collaborated with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, as they prepared for a special exhibit for the Santa Fe Trail 200th by making suggestions and providing information for the exhibit. Opening on November 20, 2021, the exhibit will run through spring, 2022 featuring special artwork and artifacts of the Santa Fe Trail.

Strengthening Organizations and Partnerships

  • Held on June 12, 2021 south of Council Grove, KS, the Symphony in the Flint Hills brought over 7,000 people together to enjoy a day-long event filled with information about the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail Association provided assistance in developing their “Field Journal” filled with stories/facts about the historic Santa Fe Trail, as well as speakers for the educational tents and consulted with programming. The culmination of the event was a concert performed at sunset by the Kansas City Symphony.
  • Sponsored by, and with assistance from the SFTA, the PBS cooking show, A Taste of History with Chef Walter Staib returned to film another segment from the Santa Fe Trail. This segment will feature the military on the Santa Fe Trail, and was filmed in Council Grove, KS, Fort Larned National Historic Site, and Bent’s Fort National Historic Site. It will air in Feb. 2022 during season 12. A previous segment from the Santa Fe Trail was aired in 2021 and featured Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and sites in Council Grove, KS.
  • Throughout 2021, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) provided programs and created projects focused around the Santa Fe Trail 200th and the DAR’s project to mark the historic Santa Fe Trail with granite stones beginning in 1906. SFTA assisted with and participated in this programming and continues to work jointly to preserve these historic markers.

Local Economy, Tourism and Community Health

  • The Santa Fe Trail GeoTour provides 73 geocaches in a 5-state area.
  • Our 12 SFTA chapters in five states joined with civic organizations, museums and libraries to host a variety of local events to commemorate the epic story, diversity and cultures of the Santa Fe Trail, including educational programming, living history, reenactments, entertainment and food and took place throughout the year. A few of the specific events included: observance of the departure of the William Becknell party from Franklin, MO; a dedication/program at the new trail at Black Jack Rut Site; events in Council Grove, KS that included a historic wagon show, military on the Santa Fe Trail, Voices of the Wind People pageant, and a mountain man rendezvous; the installation, or replacement of interpretive wayside exhibits, including those at Arrow Rock Ferry Landing, the Black Jack Rut Site, Cottonwood Crossing Site, at the Morton County Museum, Elkhart, KS, and at Wagon Mound, NM; Rendezvous at the Little Arkansas River Crossing; passport activity to visit chapter sites; tours to Santa Fe Trail sites; special exhibits at museums/libraries; and speakers/programs at various locations along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • The yearlong events culminated in a reenactment of the arrival of the William Becknell trading party to the Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, NM. The honorary chair of the SFT 200th, Michael Martin Murphey, provided two concerts in connection with 200th events—one in Council Grove, KS and one in La Junta, CO

Education, Interpretation and Cultural Expression

Santa Fe Trail 200th Timeline Exhibit. Photo by Joanne VanCoevern, SFTA Manager.

  • To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Santa Fe Trail to trade, the Santa Fe Trail Association created a portable Santa Fe Trail 200th Timeline Exhibit. The two-sided exhibit measures 8’ tall by 20’ long and features historic entries on one side and on the other side entries include how the Santa Fe Trail continues to impact modern society through media, entertainment, education and preservation efforts. The timeline was partially funded through a grant from the National Park Foundation and was intended to be displayed at various venues along the Trail to provide an educational opportunity to the public.
  • A variety of Santa Fe Trail Association Chapter events provided educational programs about the various aspects of the history of the Santa Fe Trail and the diverse ethnic groups associated with the Trail. These included reenactments, living history programs, site visits, and presentations. The Bent’s Fort Chapter hosted the SFTA’s biennial Symposium in September, 2021, with the theme, The Santa Fe Trail Lives On: 200 Years of Commerce & Cultural Connections. This symposium provided the opportunity for public access to educational speakers, living history programs, period entertainment and food