The Great Basin in Kansas, just south of Dodge City, leaves visitors with a grand view of the Great Plains.
The Western Trail
The Great Western Trail can be easily followed from San Antonio to Dodge City.
If we want our steaks, chili, and smoked briskets,
we've got to take cattle to the slaughter house
somehow. Today, we let truck drivers do it, and try
not to think about poor Bessie as we bite into a
warm, moist cheeseburger.

Cattle didn't always get to market in a ventilated
trailer, however. They used to walk there themselves,
and their hooves carved deep scars along trails that
stretched for thousands of miles. The Great Western
Trail, an offshoot of the
Chisholm Trail, was one of
these roads.
Take your own road
trip with the book,
Traveling History up
the Cattle Trails
South of Dodge
City is the Great
Basin, a water
and grazing
stop along the
Western Trail.
The Great Western Trail, blazed by rancher and trail driver John Lytle, was the last
great northern cattle trail. Running from Kerrville to Dodge City and points
northward, it had many functions in its relatively brief lifespan (ca. 1875-1885, give
or take a few years).

Trail outfits took cattle to sell to the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and Cheyenne
reservations in western Oklahoma Territory. They brought cattle to Dodge City to
ship to processing plants in Kansas City, St. Joseph, or even Chicago. Finally, the
longhorn were taken the Dakotas in order to stock the ranches there.

Cowboys who took to the trail tended to call it the Chisholm Trail - just about every
single trail they rode on in Texas they called the Chisholm Trail - but the Great
Western was actually quite distinctive. The terrain was decidedly more rugged and
parched, and formidable barriers, such as the canyons in Texas, the Wichita
Mountains in Oklahoma Territory, and the Great Basin in Kansas, made the trail
drivers really earn their keep. This territory was also the last domain of the southern
bison herds. Histories from Plains Indians tell how the cattle chased the buffalo off
their traditional lands.

As railroads started to venture into Texas, barbed wire became all the rage on the
range, Texas fever caused stricter quarantine laws, and the taste for longhorn flesh
ebbed, the Great Western Trail succumbed fairly quickly to the wiles of progress.
Today, it's a little known trail save for its importance in the history of Dodge City.
At the border of
Oklahoma and
Kansas
.
Doan's store
near the Red
River Crossing
still stands.
Built in the
1880s, this little
building has
seen a lot of
activity,
including visits
by Santata,
Quanah Parker,
an English
Lord, and
hundreds of
cowboys.
Access to
water was vital
to the drives
into the Great
Plains. Cattle
would bed
alongside the
Boggy Creek
in Fargo,
Oklahoma,
near Fort
Supply.
Most of old
Dodge City
burned, and
urban renewal
in the 1960s
also took away
much of the
authentic
character of the
town.
The deep, icy
waters of St.
Jacob's well
inside the Big
Basin has
quenched the
thirst of man
and beast alike
for thousands of
years. At times,
this would have
been the only
water source for
miles along the
trail.
Along the trail, the
traveler can find

calabooses
: here's
Leedey's (Ok) little
prison.
Lone Wolf,
Oklahoma is a
scenic stop at the
base of the Wichita
Mountains along
the Western Trail.
Shawnee         Chisholm         Western   
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