Black Jack Ruts

Written by: historyguy
Located in southeastern Colorado, Bent’s Old Fort is now part of the National Park Serve. It is one of the best preserved sites along the Santa Fe Trail. It is well worth the time and effort to visit the site.


The park is located off of  US Highway 56 in eastern Kansas, east of Baldwin. The ruts can be best visited by parking in the rest area along the highway. A short path leads from the parking lot south through a grove of trees to the remnants of tallgrass prairie.


Driving Directions

Take Interstate Highway 35(US Highway 50) south from the Kansas City area to Exit 210 for West 175th Street/New Century Air Center.  Stay right to Gardner/New Century Air Center at the fork in the road. You will be on West US Highway 56. Continue past the stoplight and stay left at the fork in the road.  Just keep heading west on US Highway 56. The highway curves left (south) at the west edge of town, and a street continues straight.  Stay left on the highway.


A short distance from town, a sign for a historical marker will be on the right.  The marker is where the later Oregon Trail split off from the Santa Fe Trail.  The actual location is in a field and can’t be accessed.  The historical marker is in a small turn-off with some signage and a short trail.  If you have the time, stop and take a look. Then return to US Highway 56 headed west.

Notes on Visiting

The ruts are in a field near a roadside rest area.  There are no gates or other fences.  I assure you can visit any time from dawn to dusk, year round.  I would avoid snow or rain as you are walking across a field.

Attractions in the Area

The ruts are located in the Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve, part of Black Jack Battlefield Park. The battle commemorated at the park was an important engagement during the “Bloody Kansas” fighting that predated the Civil War.  The famed abolishist, John Brown fought at the battle.


Eastern Kansas has several minor sites associated with the Santa Fe Trail. There are other sites located in and around Kansas City.

Local resources or contacts


What happened here

Historical Context

From the start of trade on the Santa Fe Trail until the railroad pushed the terminus, the trails passed through this part of Kansas. 

Description of events

No single event happened at this location.  The site preserves a well defined set of trail ruts.

What to see

Photo Gallery