The Santa Fe Trail was a wagon route in the 1800s that connected Franklin, Missouri, with Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a route for commerce, and also a route for settlers looking to move west. The trail ran through what is now Dodge City, Kansas, and nearby Fort Dodge was the area’s first permanent fort.
On our visit to Dodge City, we read somewhere that you can still see some of the wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail to the west of the city. So we decided to drive out and have a look. In our car, of course, not in a wagon. And on the paved road, too. Why not use the modern conveniences that the day has to offer?
We drove out and found the small parking area with some interpretive signs. But at first, we were not sure what we were looking at. I guess I half expected to see two muddy ruts with grass growing between them, not unlike the old dirt roads that you see out in the country. It should be obvious that the trail would not look like that now, since it has not been used in many, many years. But that was the picture that I had in my mind.
So we did some reading on the internet while we were standing there. Again, why not use the modern tools that we have? We learned that we were looking for broad indentations in the ground, and then we could start to see them. Laura found a satellite photo, and that showed it even better. And then we learned about the bridges. Not bridges that they had back then, but bridges now. Read on…
Bridges Over the Trail
The pathway in this picture leads from the parking area off in the distance (you can’t see the parking area here), past the sheltered interpretive signs (you can see those), and over the ridge to where we were standing. In her internet search, Laura found that the bridges along the path are over the Santa Fe Trail ruts. Once we learned that fact, it all became clear. We could then see the broad indentations left by the wagons traveling over the land, and it felt like we were seeing a part of history.
The only problem is that those broad wagon ruts do not photograph well. For the first photo up above, I was standing on one of those bridges, so that I would be looking right down the center of one of the ruts. But the photo did not pick it up all that well. So you will just have to take my word for it. Or perhaps drive out and see them for yourself, preferably in a car. But for people who enjoy history as we do, it was really cool to see!
On the Trail
In addition to being historical, the scenery here was also beautiful. Yes, it was different from our woodlands at home or from a beach view at the ocean. But the rolling hills leading to the flat plains off in the distance were beautiful to us. We very much enjoyed seeing it.
Also, it was quite dusty. We did venture off the paved path a bit, and perhaps our shoes would not have gotten quite as dusty if we had stayed on that path. That was another difference from home, because the occasional rains keep things from getting too dusty. Once again, I am not complaining, just noticing interesting differences.
On the way back home after this trip, we talked about how each place has its own beauty. Maybe you prefer one kind over the other. Maybe beaches are your thing, or perhaps tall mountains topped with snow. Or maybe a forest thick with growth is your main choice. Or even a snow-covered plain.
Perhaps it is all a matter of perspective. But I have not yet seen any place that I would call ugly. There are definitely some places that I prefer over other places. But God made them all, and they all have their own beauty.
As I have said before around here, God’s creation is amazing.
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. - Psalm 24:1-2
About the Photos
Do you think settlers traveling along the Santa Fe Trail would have taken photos along the way if they had cameras back then? Were the views along the trail something that they would want to remember? Is it even worth asking the question, since they obviously did not have cameras back then?
These photos might seem rather ordinary to you, but they are meaningful to us. And maybe they will help others to find the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts someday, too.
Photo: Each photo is a single Raw exposure, processed in Luminar AI. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Sony Alpha A7 II
Lens: Rokinon 35mm f/1.8
Date: April 16, 2022
Location: Near Dodge City, Kansas