Prehistoric habitat of camels, horses and giant turtles, homeland to tribes of Native Americans, trade route of Santa Fe Trail merchants, proving-ground of pioneer settlers, and relaxation retreat for modern man ... the “Sea of Grass” has seen an ever-changing parade of inhabitants over the centuries. We welcome you to its current resident - the Cimarron National Grassland - and invite you to experience the history and understand the present-day management of the area by way of a self guided, 30-mile Auto Tour. This Tour allows you to take in the various aspects of the Cimarron National Grassland. As you travel the route, note these special features:
The Cimarron National Grassland contains three ecosystems, distinguished primarily by vegetation, which in turn is determined by soil type and groundwater availability. Each ecosystem - Shortgrass Prairie, Sand-Sage Prairie and Wooded Riparian - requires a different management strategy to ensure the best use is made of existing resources. Livestock grazing, vehicle travel management, wildlife habitat management, and the controlled use of fire each play a part in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
The Homestead Act of 1862 brought thousands of settlers from the east out to the prairies of the Great Plains. The settlers’ farming techniques were ill-suited to the sandy prairie soil and, when prolonged drought and the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, farmers saw their crops disappear in the great brown clouds of the Dust Bowl era. Relief began in 1932 when Congress passed laws allowing the government to purchase land from those who “wanted out”. Under the management of various agencies, and through the hard work of thousands, these purchased lands were rejuvenated, and are now public lands administered by the USDA Forest Service. Here they were named the Cimarron National Grassland.
As you tour the Grassland, you will notice limestone posts set in the ground at points along the route. These posts designate the archeological verified location of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. A companion trail was created to accompany the Santa Fe Trail; it consists of a mowed swath alongside areas where Trail ruts still exist and on top of the actual Trail location where ruts are no longer evident. This was done to preserve existing Trail remnants while still allowing visitors a quality Santa Fe Trail experience.