The Santa Fe Trail, opened in 1821 by William Becknell, became a great commercial route between Franklin, Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, until 1880. Thousands of wagons traveled the Mountain Branch of the trail which went west from Dodge City along the north bank of the Arkansas River into Colorado. For those willing to risk the dangers of waterless sandhills, a shorter route called the Cimarron Cutoff crossed the river near Dodge City and went southwest to the Cimarron River. Fort Dodge was established in 1865 on the Santa Fe Trail, midway between two major Indian crossings on the Arkansas River.
It was an important outpost on the Western frontier, offering protection to wagon trains and serving as a supply base for troops engaged in the Indian Wars. Kiowa, Cheyenne and other Plains tribes inhabited the area, and wild game was abundant including vast herds of buffalo.
Dodge City was founded in 1872, just five miles west of Fort Dodge on the edge of the military reservation. It quickly became a trade center for travelers and buffalo hunters. The same year, the railroad reached Dodge City, assuring its continued existence and making it a major shipping point. An estimated 850,000 buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City in the years 1872-1874.
Want to know more? Browse the Dodge City CVB website and download the Visitor's Guide!