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The Sante Fe Trail

Using the websites given in this lesson, children are given high-interest and some hands-on activities to complete.

Directions: Use the following websites to research and answer the questions. There are also several hands-on activities that you can complete.



1. What was the name of the trail that went south from Santa Fe to Mexico City?

2. What kept traders from going into New Mexico before 1821?

3. Tell one advantage for using each fork of the Santa Fe Trail?

4. Explain why it might be important to know that Becknell changed from pack mules to wagons on the second trip to sell his trade goods.

5. The Santa Fe Trail ran nearly _____ miles from Independence, Missouri to _________________________.

6. At times, the traders on the Santa Fe Trail were attacked by the _________________________ whose land they had to cross.

7. What two events caused many emigrants to travel the Santa Fe Trail in 1849 and again in 1858?

8. In the 1840s, the transport of _____________________ made the stagecoach business profitable.

9. In 1880, the busy traffic along the Santa Fe Trail began to cease because of the ____________________________________________.

10. What states does the trail pass through?

11. Name at least two rivers that you cross on the Santa Fe Trail.

12. Name several places that you would pass if you were traveling the Santa Fe Trail.

13. The Cimarron Cutoff was very dry, with only a few places to get water. Why would the traders use the route instead of going through Colorado?

14. What sort of terrain would you expect to see after crossing the Missouri River?

Imagine that you are Senator Thomas Hart Benton from Missouri preparing to speak to the Senate about the need for marking a route to Santa Fe. List below the arguments you would use in favor of such a project.


Imagine that you are trying to reach Santa Fe, New Mexico. You have booked passage on a stagecoach. You decide to keep a diary of some of your adventures. Describe a typical day in your journey. Be as descriptive as possible in telling about your experiences.

More high-interest writing ideas:
Tell a story about life on the trail. Play up the dangers and the excitement.
Tell about the way traders kept up everyday life when traveling the Trail.
Write a letter encouraging people to take a trip to see the Santa Fe Trail today. Tell how much better it would be now than in 1840.
Tell what a wagon corral was like and why it was constructed in that manner.
Write a letter to the president, asking that sites along the Santa Fe Trail be protected and worked into the National Park System. Explain your reasons.

Answers to the above questions:
1. El Camino Real
2. The Spanish had rules against it. That changed with Mexican Independence.
3. The Cimarron fork was shorter. The Mountain fork had fewer dangers from Indians and water was available.
4. Once wagons were used instead of pack mules, large amounts of goods could be carried. Wagons needed flatter, easier routes. Wagons trains could give better protection against Indians.
5. 800 miles; Santa Fe
6. Comanche
7. California gold rush; Colorado gold rush
8. mail
9. Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad
10. Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma (cutoff only), New Mexico
11. (any two) Missouri, Arkansas, Canadian, Cimarron, Pecos
12. (at least three or four) Council Grove, Great Bend, La Junta, Raton, Fort Union, Las Vegas, etc.
13. It was shorter and flat and saved time.
14. Flat plains or prairie until reaching the mountains in Colorado or New Mexico.


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