Finney County, Kansas Santa Fe Trail

Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas

Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas

The historic Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail made its way from Gray County into present-day Finney County, Kansas, passing by the old townsite of Pierceville about 12 miles east of Garden City. This old townsite was once the headquarters for a ranch destroyed by fire during an Indian Raid in 1874.

Finney County Point of Rocks landmark was about 2 ½ miles northwest of Pierceville. It is situated on the north side of Mansfield Road, which parallels the Arkansas River and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks.

Finney County Point of Rocks is one of at least four similarly named sites along the Santa Fe Trail that aided travelers in navigating the road. The trail passed to the immediate south of this formation.

The natural feature retains a reasonable degree of integrity, sitting within an area of primarily featureless plains that covers most of the western quarter of the state. Here once sat a place known as Pawnee Fort, described by Lewis Gerrard, who, in 1846, at the age of 17, joined a caravan to Santa Fe, New Mexico, along the Mountain Route.

According to Gerrard, his party passed Pawnee Forts, a grove of timber in which a war party of Pawnee Indians had fortified themselves when besieged by a hostile tribe some years before. On July 22, 1846, Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny and the Army of the West passed ‘”Pawnee Fort, an old decayed stockade”‘ after camping near the Caches in Ford County.

Finney County, Kansas Point of Rocks on the Santa Fe Trail.

Finney County, Kansas Point of Rocks on the Santa Fe Trail.

“We were on our road at the usual time this morning. Nothing occurred of any account. It is clear and pleasant. Found road very good except some sandy hills. Came to Pawney [sic] fort about 3 o’clock p.m. Saw up under the shelving rocks [Point of Rocks] where an Indian had been buried and had been dug up by the Wolves.”

— William Salisbury, a young gold-seeker from Ohio, diary entry May 28, 1859

In the late 1860s, the Kansas Pacific Railroad approached the Colorado state line, truncating the length of the wagon route to Santa Fe. The Barlow & Sanderson Stage Company continued to use this truncated trail route from 1866 to June 1868. When the railroad reached the short-lived city of Sheridan, Kansas, near Fort Wallace in June 1868, the trail’s eastern terminus shifted to this area approximately 100 miles north-northwest of Point of Rocks. That portion of the trail east of Sheridan was subsequently abandoned. By March 1870, the railroad had reached Kit Carson, Colorado, spelling the end of trail traffic along the Santa Fe Trail.

From Point of Rocks, the trail continued through the present-day towns of Garden City and Holcomb before entering Kearny County.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated September 2023.

East to Gray County




Also See:

Kansas Santa Fe Trail Photo Gallery

Kansas Main Page

Point of Rocks – On the Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail Across Kansas

Santa Fe Trail – Pathway to the Southwest