Although its scope has expanded somewhat, the original purpose of this website was to publish geographic and historical research on several government exploring expeditions that opened the previously little-known southwestern United States to emigration, commerce, and settlement in the mid-1800s. The study area focuses primarily on New Mexico and Arizona.
The trail studies are arranged in loose chronological order, beginning with the march of Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West in 1846. Kearny’s conquest of New Mexico and California brought these coveted lands under U. S. control and mapped areas that were previously”Tierra Incognita.”
After Kearny, the government sent other soldiers and civilians to explore the new territories; John Russell Bartlett, surveying the new boundary in 1850-53, and Lorenzo Sitgreaves in 1851, exploring the rivers in northern Arizona. As transportation became more of a concern the government sent Amiel Whipple to survey a new railroad in 1853-54, Edward F. Beale, to build a wagon road with camels in 1857-58, and Joseph C. Ives, to explore the navigability of the Colorado River in 1857-58.
Each of these expeditions left behind dairies, official reports, drawings, maps, and, in some cases, roads that can still be seen. I invite you to browse though the menu at left to travel along with these pioneers of southwest exploration.