Three Kansas trails might receive national historic status

Deep ruts mark Richard Chase's ranchland in Butler County - signs of a trail long gone.

The ruts are the remains of the Cherokee Trail, worn by pioneers and Native Americans trekking west to California during the 1849 Gold Rush.

"I marvel at the people who used it," Chase, 80, said of the trail. "When you think almost everyone, except old grandmothers and babies, had to walk it. I think about the hardships they must have endured."

The Cherokee Trail is sometimes called a forgotten trail. But that may change under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, signed by President Obama last month.

The act authorizes the National Park Service to study 64 trails for possible designation as National Historic Trails and possible inclusion in the National Trails System.

The additional trails extend thousands of miles and traverse 14 states from Missouri to the Pacific Coast. Kansas has more than its share.

"This is an opportunity to focus national attention on the significant role Kansas has played in the American expansion of the West," said Aaron Mahr, superintendent of the National Trails System office in Santa Fe, N.M. "So much happened in Kansas.... It is a crossroads for so many historic trails."

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