Explore the rich Texas history of ranch hands, cowboys and cattle as we celebrate the Chisholm Trail's 150th Anniversary.
From the end of the Civil War until the mid-1880s, Texas experienced a boom in its famous cattle industry. More than five million cattle, including famed Texas longhorns, made their way from Texas to Kansas City along the historic Chisholm Trail, making it one of the greatest migration of livestock in world history.
Named after Jesse Chisholm, the Chisholm Trail was a three-to-four month journey through rivers, canyons, and prairies. At one of the most treacherous yet necessary crossing points on the Brazos River, a suspension bridge was built to enable safe passage for the cowboys and their cattle. That bridge, designed by the same company that built the Brooklyn Bridge, can still be seen – and crossed – in Waco.
For 20 years, cowboys - and cowgirls - along with the cattle industry thrived because of the Chisholm Trail. As the railroad industry grew in Texas, making it easier to transport cattle by train, the need for cattle driving quickly declined. Subsequently, so did the Chisholm Trail and by the late 1880's, the trail had finally reached its end. However, the impact it had on the state of Texas lives on.
The Chisholm Trail was instrumental in cementing Texas's place as part of the United States, along with furthering the expansion and economic development of the Midwestern US. While the trail and the days of cattle drives faded out with the expansion of railroads, the cowboys' legacy and the image of Texas as a destination for the strong-willed has stood the test of time.
When you visit Texas, you can explore more than 70 historic sites and attractions along the Chisholm Trail. Each provides a first hand look at the hardship, adventure and economy that made up the Texas cowboy and cattle idustry. For a list of 37 tourist attractions for today’s visitors, view the Texas Historical Commission’s Chisholm Trail Guide. Here are a few you won't want to miss:
The Chisholm Trail Roundup Rodeo and Music Festival is the city of Lockhart's largest annual festival and tourism event, occuring the first two weeks of June.
The Chisholm Trail also lives on through Hollywood and the silver screen. You can discover the trail’s lasting appeal in such classic films as The Texans, The Old Chisholm Trail and the John Wayne classic, Red River.
Take a ride through history with The Chisholm Trail: Exploring the Folklore and Legacy. The mobile tour is available for free as a web app at www.texashistoryapp.com or downloadable to your iOS or Android device.
As we say in Texas, "Happy Trails."