The Western Trail was the old cattle trail that preceded the Chisholm Trail on the east. The early boom in cattle driving in Texas began soon after the Civil War ended. Abilene, in the mid 1870’s was the primary cattle market in the state. The trail continued east across Texas and into New Mexico. A few routes diverged to the south along the Divide, but remained connected through much of their time span. The most important route, however, remained along the old Trans Continental Trail (which separated the United States from European civilizations for almost two centuries).
Throughout its history the Great Western Trail was plagued by a few problems. First, the trail was badly burned in a famous thunderstorm in 18FD. Another major problem was a series of massive earthquakes along the trail. Most of these disasters were minor and did not damage structures. Still, a number of serious fires occurred and in many of these cases, the local ranchers put out good fires to get rid of the cattle while they made repairs to roads and railways that would protect against flooding in the future.
While the cattle trade was flourishing along the entire length of the route, the most important part of the trip was the massive “Dodge City” west of Dodge City. The location was built around a large strip of flat land west of present-day Dodge City, but what was built there were a huge depot and collection point for wagons, withers, and all manner of cattle. The cattle drove their huge wagons down the trail before they camped to rest. They camped for a few days, stocked their pens, then moved back westward to the original trail head and camped again.
Moving on to the “Red River Crossing,” the first group of pioneers crossed the bridge over the Red River where they met an armed escort of Indians. Although there were armed men accompanying the trail, they only stayed there to guard the bridge. The “Big Cone,” a huge cone shaped object, was used by the armed escort to warn away Indians at the crossing. This is one of the few locations where the Western Trail class of hikers actually crosses the Indian lines.
Moving through the giant oak groves to the “Bitterroots Wilderness,” the American and European explorers found a variety of species and plants. The area was an important habitat for the redwoods of California as well as a playground for a variety of wildlife. A number of pairs of birds called roosters and crane are found in the Bitterroots Wilderness while the okra, acorn squash, and sagebrush are found in the Oklahoma side of this location. Hikers will find beautiful ranches and houses scattered here and also, watermills, springs, and rivers. The area has been called a wildlife haven with moose, deer, elk, and coyote being found in some areas.
For those who enjoy hiking, camping, or watching wild animals, the American Indian Trail covers almost the entire west Texas region. Each campground offers different types of accommodations so that no one feels left out. Many of the campgrounds are within a half day’s drive of most major cities such as Dallas and Houston. There are also outfitters and boarding lodges available in the Big Bend, Copper Canyon, and Cedar Mountain areas. Horseback riders can be assured of a great adventure while spotting cattle on the prairie. Camping is available on the reservation or off the reservation, and the western trails provide miles of open land with rolling hills and breathtaking views of the Texas sky.