This trail ran northwest from Arkansas Post, Arkansas, the first semi-permanent European settlement in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Located on the Arkansas River in southeast Arkansas, the road was originally an Indian Trail, but as people began to move westward, it began to be utilized to transfer pioneers to the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas.
The trail left Arkansas Post, bearing northwest and passed through Austin, Arkansas a few miles northeast of Little Rock, before continuing between the Arkansas and White Rivers. The emigrant trail was joined at Fayetteville by a road from Fort Smith. It then traversed the northeast corner of Oklahoma, crossing the Neosho River and entered the state of Kansas in what is now Montgomery County. The path continued on, requiring pioneers to get over the Verdigris River about two miles north of the Kansas state line, went through the present-day site of Coffeyville and continued along the northeast side of Onion Creek before making its way northwest. Finally, it converged with the Santa Fe Trail at Turkey Creek in McPherson County, Kansas. In Kansas, the trail crossed the counties of Montgomery, Chautauqua, Elk, Butler, Harvey, Marion, and McPherson.
During the days of westward expansion, the trail was widely used, also connecting to the Oregon and California Trails. However, travel dramatically fell off during the Civil War. When the Osage lands in southern Kansas were thrown open for settlement, the old trail was soon obliterated and abandoned, and by the end of the 19th Century, only traces of it could be seen.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2020.