The Santa Fe Trail

Its History, Legends, and Lore

David Dary

The famous trail of romantic western lore was established in about 1610 by Spanish settlers of Mexico who had explored western and southern regions of North America long before the French and English arrived. Stretching 900 miles from its origin in Santa Fe through present-day Colorado and Kansas, the trail, originally a combination of many old paths worn down by buffalo, ends in Franklin, Missouri. Enterprising Americans from the east soon discovered that the Spanish of Santa Fe and the nearby Indians had many material needs that they could supply very profitably. Thus the Santa Fe Trail came to be known as a key commercial link to the west. Dary, a leading historian of the Old West, draws on original newspaper stories, letters, diaries, books, and expedition records to re-create the adventures of many tough and colorful people who endured a journey that might take more than two months, if they were lucky enough to survive severe hardship, bad weather, broken axles, and marauding tribes.—Publishers Weekly

“If you are stirred by the legends that endure around the opening of the American West, then poking through the index of Dary’s book will send chills down your neck. There are great names here: Jedediah Smith, the mountain man who once, famously, survived a grizzly-bear attack and had a companion sew his ear back onto his head; Kit Carson, the celebrated scout; John C. Fremont, a.k.a. ‘The Pathfinder’; Zebulon Pike, the map maker, and, perhaps, secret agent; Buffalo Bill Cody. . . . But what is often missed in the story of the Western frontier is how much it was not about destiny—manifest or otherwise—but about commerce. This is a story that Dary tells comprehensively and ably.”

Wall Street Journal

“Dary demonstrates a firm grasp of the terrain’s history and is skilled at resurrecting the old lives of this landscape. . . . A densely populated account executed with fine historical veracity.”

See all reviews...

About the Author

David Dary is winner of the Cowboy Hall of Fame Wrangler Award, two Western Writers of America Spur Awards, the Westerners International Best Nonfiction book Award, and the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement from the Western Writers of America. He worked for CBS News and NBC News in Texas and Washington, D.C., and for many years taught journalism, first at the University of Kansas and then as head of the School of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, from which he recently retired. He is the author of fourteen previous books, including Cowboy Culture, The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends and Lore, and The Oregon Trail: An American Saga.