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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trail Ruts at Fort Leavenworth

A while back I learned about some historic wagon ruts at Fort Leavenworth.  One evening we had some free time, so we decided to go and find them.  We entered Fort Leavenworth through the main gate then drove to the Ulysses S. Grant Statue on Grant Avenue, then turned east on Riverside Avenue.  A short distance later we saw the wayside marker and parked to go walk around and look closer. 
Wagon Trail at Fort Leavenworth
The trail ruts ascend from the historic river crossing location on the Missouri River up to the top of the bluffs overlooking the river.  The wagons would cross the river on the wide floodplain, then hitch up and climb a spot on the bluff that wasn't as steep as the nearby slopes.  The historic parade ground of Fort Leavenworth is right a the top of the bluff, making the route the most direct way up from the river.  The picture above is looking down the hill, and if you look closely, you can see the dip in the hill from where countless wagons climbed up so long ago.  The countless wagon wheels and livestock would have broken up the dirt and grass, contributing to erosion from wind and rain, which left the carved out indentation which remains today.
Fort Leavenworth was one of the starting places for both the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.  It would not be entirely untruthful to call these ruts the eastern intersection or terminus of both trails.   I can easily imagine settlers and immigrants camping both on the flood plain below, or near the parade ground just up the hill as one final pause before fully committing to their journey to the west. 

Nearest City: Ft Leavenworth, KS
Location: Off of Riverside Drive, Fort Leavenworth, KS
Time Needed: 15 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Kid Friendly:
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