Trails Linking the West
Updated June 02, 2006
Before the Railroads, there were wagon roads. Before the wagon roads, there were trails that could be traveled only on foot or horseback -- something hard to visualize in our modern world of interstate highways and travel by air travel. In conjunction with the waterways, however, they linked far-flung places and thus enabled trade and communication.
I am not an expert on trails and wagon roads and don't plan to become one, but have often found myself searching for them while attempting to understand migration patterns. On this site, Historic Trails & Roads have been grouped by category with links to other relevant sites -- including many with maps.
Game Trails My answer to the FAQ: "How did the Natives establish their trails?"
Native Trails This section describes a few of the trails known to have been in use before arrival of European settlers. Most locations are very general.
Explorer's Paths The early explorers often took advantage of existing native trails, so their paths provide clues regarding the older ones and sometimes the ones that followed.
Forts Some of the earliest roads were built to link forts, so finding locations of specific forts is often the key to identifying migration paths.
Wagon Roads In many cases, existing Indian Trails were widened to accommodate wagons, resulting in roads that became significant in the westward expansion.
Cattle Trails These were among the first included in our old "Trails Linking the West" page and although they were a relatively short-lived phenomenon I have chosen to keep them as the site has expanded to cover the continental United States.
"Famous Cattle Trails" provides a detailed account of the major trails from Texas through Oklahoma to Kansas.
The Oregon-California Trails Association has an extensive website
Geography of the California Trails An extensive treatment of the factors in selecting a trail: grassland, water, grades to climb, rivers to ford, etc.
How You Can Help
Ultimately, the growth of this site depends on YOU -- our visitors. If you know of other sites with relevant information, please write to Sharon McAllister.
Status: This section has been a workspace in which to accumulate and organize submitted clues. When a trail has been adequately defined, information about it has has been added to Maps 'n' More. Therefore, it can be expected to diminish with time rather than to grow.