Identifying & Preserving the Southern Trails to California


Good News!

Federal legislation to designate the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail was signed into law by President Joe Biden. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas was the prime sponsor of S.3519; among the five co-sponsors was Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

Gerald Ahnert, author of “The Butterfield Trail and Overland Mail Company in Arizona,” and Helen Erickson with the University of Arizona have worked on the trail segment that runs through Fort Bowie National Historic Site.

The route, operated from 1858-1861 by the Butterfield Overland Mail Company and also known as the Butterfield Stage, was used to transport U.S. mail and passengers between St. Louis, Memphis, and San Francisco, serving as the route of the longest stagecoach operation in history. It became known as the “ox-bow route” due to its curved path comprised of approximately 3,553 miles of trail routes in eight states: Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

For more information on the stops along The Butterfield Overland Trail Auto Tour, visit

Butterfield Overland National Historic Trail Designation Act


Welcome to the Southern Trails Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association.

We are a group of amateur and professional historians, researchers, cartographers, and everyday lovers of historic trails. We come from all walks of life, drawn by a common interest – to study and preserve historic trails across the American Southwest.

The general term “southern trails” encompasses a network of several early American exploration, trading, and settlement trails leading across the southern states to California. Perhaps the most significant of those trails is the Southern Trail, which was used by thousands of California-bound Americans during the Gold Rush of 1848-1855.

In 2009, the Southern Trails Chapter began the long-term project of working to achieve National Historic Trail designation for the Southern Trail. This project has been approved by our parent organization, the Oregon-California Trails Association, the nation’s largest trails organization and a long time leader in promoting and preserving historic trails.

If you have an interest in any aspect of historic trails, why not join us? There are many ways you can get involved and make trail history by helping us to preserve the southern trails.

We focus on the five regions of the southern trail from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma/Arkansas. Our members across America work together to preserve history and the trails.


Learn from us – Teach us – Go with us – Join us