The first was at Fort Larned National Historic Site where there is a one-mile hiking trail near the Fort. A portion of that trail is on the Santa Fe Trail as the soldiers at the fort were known as the "guardians of the Santa Fe Trail" in the 1870-80s.
The History and Nature Trail skirts the Fort Larned quadrangle. A trail guide can be obtained at the Fort Larned Visitor Center that provides a map and information about designated areas along the way. Below is a snapshot of my hiking companions.
The dominant species in short grass prairies of the west is buffalo grass. It is highly drought resistant and was a primary food source for the American Buffalo.
The Plains Indians believed that the buffalo gourd had magical powers. It was used medicinally and they took great care not to mutilate the gourd lest evil befall them.
Our grasshopper hunter, Sadie, had a blast playing in the grass!
Th leaves and stems of goatsbeard salsify were used for salads or as a cooked green vegetable. The plant is closely related to the dandelion.
Cottonwoods are the state tree of Kansas. They grow along streams or other sources of water. The twigs and bark were fed to horses by Native Americans. Also the Cheyenne made black paint using cottonwood buds and buffalo blood.
The Pawnee Fork River is located nearby. Sadie was anxious to go for a quick swim as it was well above 90 on the day we were hiking.
Below is an oxbow formed when the Pawnee Fork River changed courses to its present day path in the early 1800s. The soldiers at the fort used it to store firewood.
Here is the portion of the hiking trail that is part of the famous Santa Fe Trail.
The second location where we saw the Santa Fe Trail is about 9 miles west of Dodge City, KS, along Rte 50/400. There is historic landmark signage and a boardwalk trail that affords a view of wagon wheel ruts in the trail (yes, ruts made in the 1870s!)
The trail that leads to a view of the wagon wheel ruts and a view of a remnant of the failed Eureka Irrigation Canal. The 25-mile canal was built between 1884-1887 but many problems including breaks in the canal wall, flash floods and low levels in the Arkansas River caused it to be abandoned by 1890.
And here are the famous tracks! Aerial photos show an extensive network of wagon wheel ruts in this area that still remain. The depth of the tracks have dwindled over time due to wind and erosion. Can you see them??
Sunflowers are the state flower in Kansas and can be seen growing everywhere in this area.