Dodge City and the Santa Fe Trail

Clinton Travel Blog

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Dodge City, Kansas
We were now riding right through the middle of America's Great Prarie.  This was the land of the "tornado in the distance" that we have seen so many times on the Weather Channel.    Flat and wide-open spaces spread out in every direction.   Cattle and sunflowers seem to be the "crop of choice" for the Kansas farmers.   Acres of yellow faces were smiling from their stalks as they waved and nodded in the wind.   We continued to ride south on Highway 83 to Garden City, where we turned east towards Dodge City.

The mention of Dodge City, Kansas, brings to mind names like Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, and her Long Branch Saloon.   Of course, these are only fictional characters from the successful TV series, "Gunsmoke," but in reality, Dodge City was a wild and wicked town without law enforcement where gunfighters, gamblers, buffalo hunters and traders lived and died.
Stretching our legs on the Santa Fe Trail
   Fort Dodge was established in 1865 to provide protection from marauding Indians to the many pioneers traveling along the  Santa Fe Trail.   The long trail between Franklin, Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, was officially established as a national "highway" in 1825 when the United States obtained a right-of-way from the Osage Indians.   The weary travelers on the wagon trains took tremendous risks on the trail and the establishment of Fort Dodge offered them some reassurance of safety.   In addition to the thousands of wagons traveling the trail, a monthly stagecoach line started running the trail in 1850.  If a person were to stand on the hill above Dodge City in the mid-1800's, they would have seen traffic as far as the eye could see, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Clearly identifiable wagon ruts across great plains of Kansas.
 

In 1872 the railroad came to Dodge City.  With the railroad came tremendous growth.   Adjacent to the tracks, hastily built frame buildings and tents sprang up, housing two grocery and general merchandise stores, a barber shop, a restaurant, a dance hall, and a blacksmith shop.  Dozens of railcars were loaded every day with buffalo hides and meat while other cars full of grain, flour, and provisions arrived.  The streets of Dodge were lined with wagons bringing in hides and meat and buying supplies from early morning until late at night.

These were years of lawlessness in Dodge City.   The Army had ordered the slaughter of all buffalo, hoping to force the Indians off their lands and onto reservations.
Jerry visiting the Long Branch
  By 1876, the buffalo and buffalo hunter had vanished from the Great Praries.  Now it was cattle drives and cowboys, who were more lawless than the gamblers and buffalo hunters.  Wyatt Earp was offered the position of Chief Deputy Marshal with unheard of salary of $250 per month and a legend was born.

This was a great little place to stretch our legs and talk to the shop owners.  Of course, Randy had to drink a beer at the Long Branch Saloon and let Jan snap his picture.  He and Jerry are both big "Gunsmoke" fans, having seen every single episode.  The Long Branch was an actual saloon in old Dodge City and one of Doc Holliday's favorite hangouts.   We meandered in and out of the different stores and stopped to grab a bite of lunch.  This was the last planned "tourist" stop of our trip.  When we rode out of Dodge City, we would be making a bee-line for Alabama.  It had been another blue-sky day and we rode until dark caught up with us in Clinton, Oklahoma.  
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Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City, Kansas
Stretching our legs on the Santa F…
Stretching our legs on the Santa …
Clearly identifiable wagon ruts ac…
Clearly identifiable wagon ruts a…
Jerry visiting the Long Branch
Jerry visiting the Long Branch
Bar inside the Long Branch
Bar inside the Long Branch
Enlarge for good information
Enlarge for good information
Clinton
photo by: kingelvis14