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The Santa Fe Trail

December 9th, 2005

[Covered wagon]

In 1821 the borders of New Mexico, then a Mexican province, were opened to trade with the United States after Mexico gained independence from Spain.

The Santa Fe Trail, the transportation route connecting Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico, was first used that same year by William Becknell.

Initially the route followed the Arkansas River through Colorado down into New Mexico (the Mountain Route); later Becknell found an easier route for wagon trains, coming across the Oklahoma Panhandle, and known as the Cimarron Cutoff.

After the 1846-1848 Mexican-American War and 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 Santa Fe Trail served as a major commercial and military road for many years, until the arrival of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880.

More information about the Santa Fe Trail can be found on the National Park Service and the Santa Fe Trail websites.

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