For most of these immigrants, traders and fortune-seekers, Independence, Missouri, known as “Queen City of the Trails,” was the starting point. Independence is the only city in the nation that served as the launching point for the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. Relive one of the most captivating sagas in American history at attractions throughout Independence. Learn about traders who made fortunes daring to cross hostile plains, families who left loved ones and braved half a continent of wilderness to fulfill the American Dream. Discover the wonders of the Lewis and Clark expedition which launched the whole Westward Expansion. Start your exploration at the National Frontier Trails Museum. Uncover real Santa Fe Trail swales (wagon ruts) right across the street at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. Plan to tour the Independence Square, the commerce center where the trails experience really began, the 1827 Log Courthouse, the 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home and sites interpreting the Mormon Trails experience. It’s all in Historic Independence.
The National Frontier Trails Museum (NFTM) presents the history of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails and the personal trials and adventures of the pioneers who opened the West. An award-winning film takes visitors from Independence to Oregon. The NFTM includes interpretive exhibits and artifacts. Merrill J. Mattes Research Library is recognized as the largest collection of books, documents and manuscripts on the Westward Expansion.
318 W. Pacific, (816) 325-7575 Open: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Mon. - Sat. and 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Sun. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 6-17, under 6 freewww.frontiertrailsmuseum.org
On the south side of the Bingham-Waggoner Estate are depressions in the ground believed to be made by wagons of the Santa Fe Trail pioneer caravans in the 1830s. A pedestrian bridge and walking trail loops around these trail features. Brochure available at the National Frontier Trails Museum and the Bingham-Waggoner Estate.
313 W. Pacific
Built in 1879, the depot is believed to be the oldest two-story frame depot remaining in Missouri. It was moved to the National Frontier Trails Museum Campus in 1996.
318 W. Pacific, (816) 325-7955Open: April - OctoberHours: 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Mon.,Thurs. - Sat. and 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Sun. Other times by appointment.Donations welcomed.www.chicagoalton1879depot.org
Built in 1855 along 1846 alignment of Santa Fe Trail, the home was once owned by George C. Bingham, famed Civil War artist. It was also home from 1879-1978 to the Waggoner family, founders of Waggoner Gates Mill. Group meals may be reserved in the cozy carriage house. Holiday tours available between Thanksgiving and December 30.Wagon ruts or swales dating back to the 1830s or ’40s can be viewed on the grounds of the Bingham-Waggoner Estate.
313 W. Pacific, (816) 461-3491Open: April - OctoberHours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mon. - Sat. and 1 - 4 p.m. Sun. Admission: $6 adults; $5 srs; $3 ages 6-16; under 6 freewww.bwestate.org
This two-story 1859 Jackson County Jail, with its barred windows, double iron doors and leg chains, once housed Frank James, Jesse James’ notorious brother. Visitors are amazed to learn how James was treated like a hero and showered with gifts throughout his incarceration. Four feet away rises the back wall of the federalist-style marshal’s house which was home for county marshals until the early 1930s. Special exhibits include a collection of confiscated handmade weapons.Independence’s rich Civil War heritage is also interpreted at the 1859 Jail.
217 N. Main, (816) 461-1897Open: April – October 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mon. - Sat. and 1 - 4 p.m. Sun. Admission: $6 adults; $5 seniors; $3 ages 6-16; under 6 freeClosed January - Marchwww.jchs.org
Two-room log structure was home to roots of Jackson County where controversial slave state, land disputes and westward expansion issues were dealt with. Once a Mormon mercantile store, this structure has a great significance to members of the LDS church. Harry Truman held court here in the 1930s.
107 W. Kansas, (816) 325-7111 Hours: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Mon. - Fri. April 1-October 31Closed on ozone alert days and all major holidays.After 2 p.m. by appointment Admission: Free
The austere two-room log cabin offers a sharp contrast to Independence’s opulent Victorian estates. Originally constructed in an Irish community known as “Brady Town,” the Pioneer Spring Cabin was moved to its present location in 1971. A spring outside the Cabin has been recreated to represent the abundant natural springs that served weary trail riders, pioneers and livestock.
SE corner of Noland and Truman Roads, (816) 325-7111 Hours: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Mon. - Fri., April - OctoberAdmission: Free
This is where it all began. The spot where countless thousands of pioneers and emigrants outfitted themselves for their arduous journeys west on the Santa Fe, Oregon or California Trails. At one time more than a dozen blacksmiths, four hotels, and a colorful cadre of merchants operated on the mucky streets that surrounded the quaint red courthouse in the middle of Independence Square. And today tours of Independence begin on the Historic Square. The Square, lined with antique shops, charming eateries, great boutiques and curios shops, is the hub for Historic Independence and its 15 visitor attractions. Historic markers commemorating the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails are located on the Square along with the 1859 Jail, Truman Home Ticket Center and the 1827 Log Courthouse.
Self-guided tour of 1864 Battle of Independence.
For more information on Civil War Sites, click here.
City of Independence Department of Tourism