The Trail Today
When the cattle drives abandoned the Chisholm Trail, it fell into obscurity. There were the stories, of course, mostly references in movies and books about the Old West, but the trail itself was swallowed up by civilization.
Barbed wire sliced the trail into tiny pieces. Stretches were filled in as farmers tilled soil fertilized by the droppings of millions of cattle. Still other stretches were flattened to allow construction of houses and other buildings, streets, highways and parking lots.
Ghostly reminders lingered for years. In Duncan, Oklahoma, where the trail's ruts all but vanished beneath homes and businesses, the Chisholm Trail Motor Inn stood for years -- long after most residents forgot the trail had crossed U.S. 81 at this point. And eventually the old motel was torn down and the name was lost.
While Texas was the home of the longhorns, they traveled from a broad range, funneling northward to the Red River and Indian Territory. Signs of the trail still exist, for those who know how to find them, but they are widespread and hard to find.
In Kansas, likewise, the ruts have mostly vanished. Cattle followed first one route, then another through the state, and finding signs of the trail can be an adventure.
In Oklahoma, the ruts ran the deepest. This is because the cattle pretty much followed the same route north from the Red River, crossing streams and rivers at known locations where quicksand was less likely to be encountered. Trail guidebooks, issued by the Kansas Pacific Railroad, helped keep herds on the right path by suggesting campsites and easy travel distances through the Territories.
The following pages cover some of the locations in Oklahoma where the trail is still visible, or marked, or at least remembered.