Who we are...
REMEMBER THE SMOKY HILL TRAIL!
The Smoky Hill Trail Association is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and interpretation of the heritage of the Smoky Hill Trail. The Association was founded in 2007. It holds an annual conference in the fall of the year and publishes a quarterly newsletter, the Overland Despatch.
Beginning in 1859, the Smoky Hill Trail ran from Atchison, Kansas, on the Missouri River, west to Denver, Colorado. It began as a route to the Colorado gold fields, both for parties of miners seeking their own way, and for individuals who took the stage coaches of the Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company. Later it was the main route of the Butterfield’s Overland Despatch stage and freighting line. The Trail had various branches, including along the Republican River, but primarily it followed the Smoky Hill River from Junction City, Kansas to the High Plains of Colorado and thence to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1863 what ultimately would be known as the Kansas Pacific Railroad began to build along the Trail. It reached Junction City in 1866 and arrive in Denver in 1870. Later in the 19th Century and on into the 20th and 21st centuries, highways followed the old route of the Trail, including U. S. Highway 40 and then Interstate 70. The Trail also witnessed confrontations between the U. S. Army and Plains Indians in the region, especially in the late 1860s. Settlers too followed the Trail, opening farms and ranches along its length in Kansas and Colorado.
The majority of the Association’s members are scattered along its length, from eastern Kansas to the Denver metropolitan area. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but share a love of the Trail, an admiration for men and women who traveled it and a loyalty to the towns and communities that sprang up along it. The Association is actively engaged in seeking National Historic Trail status for the Smoky Hill Trail, under the National Trails System Act. It also has, as an on-going project, the mapping and marking of the historic Trail.
For more information, click on the links indicated above or contact any member of the Smoky Hill Trail Association’s Board of Directors.