The Kaw Trail was an old Indian trail in Kansas that connected with the Santa Fe Trail. It was first utilized by the Kanza Indians, who traversed it regularly during their hunting expeditions. When it began to be utilized by American pioneers, the trail began at Big John, on the Kaw Reservation, near Council Grove, Kansas, and passed through the counties of Morris, Chase, and Marion, to present-day Florence. From there, it went to what was known as Big Timbers on Turkey Creek, where it intersected with the Santa Fe Trail.
The success of western travel routes, including the Santa Fe Trail, and American demand for land in the West forced the Kanza to relocate to Oklahoma in 1872. After the Kanzas’ removal, the Kaw Trail became a wagon road for white people and a route for cattle drives.
By the end of the 19th Century, only traces could be found on the rising ground west of Florence and on Diamond Creek in Chase County.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated August 2022.
Tales & Trails of the American Frontier