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Butterfield Overland Trail: Worlds Longest Stage Coach Route Gets Study
The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2020 will study if the Butterfield Overland Trail should become part of the National Trails System. The Butterfield Overland Trail was the world's longest stagecoach route.
During the years 1858-1861, The Butterfield Stage ran passengers starting in Tipton Missouri and traveling through Arkansas and then turning west to end in San Francisco California. Not only is this trail of significant historical importance to the US as a whole, it is of particular importance to northwest Arkansas.
In Arkansas, the Butterfield Overland Trail passed through the current day cities of Fayetteville, Hogeye, Strickler, Van Buren and Fort Smith. In Fayetteville the stage was changed from a horse drawn stagecoach to one pulled with a team of 4 mules. The reason for this was the tough terrain through the Boston Mountains. A passenger on the stage, Waterman Ormsby (see sources #2) a writer for the NY Herald described his experience as follows:
"...It is impossible that any road could be worse. I might say the road was steep, rugged, jagged, rough and mountainous, and then wish for more impressive words..."
Currently part of this trail resides in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. It comes within 2 miles of the renowned Butterfield Hiking Trail in Devil's Den State Park, a trail named for the stagecoach route. The terrain here has not changed very much except that some of the roads are paved. Hiking the trail one can imagine how difficult it would be to travel through this area by stagecoach. The terrain is steep and full of rocks, fracture caves, and crevices that were formed by the mountain faces falling off of the mountains and into the Quaill Valley. Hiking trails in this area are usually rocky and the 15 mile Butterfield Hiking Trail is not a trail for beginners. Mountain Bike along the Holt Road Trail and one will experience a ride that could shake the teeth out of your head; very similar to what Mr. Ormsby must have experienced.
It is great to see that an effort is being made to preserve these areas. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2020 does a lot more than allocate funding for a study for the Butterfield Overland Trail. There are a lot of other watershed, wilderness and natural areas discussed. You can read the entire bill here. It is long, over 1200 pages.
Hopefully the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2020 will get signed into law. Devils Den State Park and the surrounding area is one of my favorite places to hike and I would love to see the Butterfield Overland Trail preserved or at least marked.
To read more articles about legislation by this author click on the links below:
Act 1 Protest Starts: March to Repeal Act 1 at the Arkansas State Capitol Scheduled
ACLU to Challenge Act 1 in Arkansas
Is a State Lottery in Arkansas' Future
Bailout Vote: Arkansas Representatives Vote Yes
Are Gas Prices in Arkansas Price Gouging
1) Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2020
2) Butterfield Hiking Trail Pamphlet (in print not online), Devil's Den State Park, Arkansas State Parks.