Rex Buchanan, Emeritus Kansas Geological Service and Dave Kendall, PBS personality and documentary producer have collaborated to make a documentary celebrating the 200th anniversary of the storied Santa Fe Trail. Buchanan and Kendall, both consummate story tellers, are uniquely qualified to speak on the geography and history of the trail. Kendall has formed Prairie Hollow Productions to create and host a documentary to mark the anniversary. Portions of the documentary may be viewed on the Prairie Hollow Productions web site.
The Santa Fe Trail was established in 1821 by William Becknell who set out from western Missouri. He lead a party of wagons filled with trade goods over the 900-mile route to Santa Fe, in the territory of Mexico. The route followed old native American trails and game trails across Kansas and part of Oklahoma territory. Missouri was closer to Santa Fe than trading centers in Mexico. Becknell was well received and carried pelts, wool, mules and precious metals back to Missouri.
The terrain of the Santa Fe Trail was rugged, treeless and dry. The weather was often extreme, and hostile Comanches and Apaches made the trail even more dangerous. Most of the route passed through Kansas, including the present day cities of Baldwin, Council Grove, Lyons, Great Bend and Garden City. The trail split as it left Kansas into a mountain route through Colorado and a dryer route through Oklahoma. Scarce water sources largely determined the actual route and travel time took between six to eight hard weeks. The trail was primarily commercial and did not carry significant immigrant traffic. The wagon route thrived until the 1880’s and the coming of the rail road. The Santa Fe Trail established a vital commercial and cultural link between regions and is an important part of the history of the American West.