"Coronado, 3 Dodges, Wyatt Earp, and Gunsmoke" Top 5 Page for this destination Dodge City by atufft

Dodge City Travel Guide: 57 reviews and 148 photos

Coronado and the Three Dodges

In May of 1541, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and thirty armor clad horseman forded the Arkansas River near present day Dodge City, enroute to a reported marketplace within the tribal Kansa region where great wealth might be found. While he mapped and wrote logs about the tribal cultures living in the central plains, Coronado publicly hoped Quivira, supposedly located along the Kansas River to the northeast, would be vastly richer in gold than pitiful Albuquerque and the Zuni tribes of New Mexico.

Meanwhile, on the banks of the Caddo River, just 500 miles southeast from Coronado, the more worldly discoverer of the great Mississippi River, Hernando de Soto, had spent his winter enduring ice storms and fighting militant Tula Indians in Arkansas. Former Regidor of León, Nicaragua, and Captain under wildly successful Peruvian conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro, de Soto also sought gold. Instead he died from fever May, 1542, on the banks of the Mississippi River, near present-day McArthur, Arkansas.

The looping routes of both explorers remain in doubt as definitive geographical landmarks within this region are few, so even five centuries later, travelers through the region often remain disillusioned by a lack of transportable wealth as they themselves search for any tangible natural landmark by which they may navigate.

Fort Dodge, found more than 300 years later, was indeed very late in establishment on the Kansas plains, located as it is on a low ridge that overlooks the north bank of the upper Arkansas River. Stationed along the well worn Santa Fe Trail, not too far from the present day junction of barren Texas and Oklahoma "panhandles". This is a mostly non-descript pan flat territory given up for tribal reservations, cut up by politically motivated cartographers and cattlemen, and finally assigned to the states of Oklahoma and Texas. Fort Dodge served mostly to protect travelers from marauding Indians, with the expectation that bison and beef could be marketed.

Actually, present day tourist attraction of Fort Dodge was the third such outpost commanded by a soldier named Dodge. The first, Colonel I. Dodge founded an outpost at the junction of the Santa Fe and Cimarron Trails in 1851, while the second, General Grenville M. Dodge, founded the more established fort in 1864 that bears his name. Colonels George Armstrong Custer and William H. Lewis were commanders of this fort before moving on toward greater fame. The last Dodge, Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, for whom the town of Dodge City is named, was perhaps being the most distinguished and elite frontier sportsman of the group, having been once Aide-De-Camp to American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, of the burning of Atlanta fame, and once the author several frontier books, from which his most famous extraction remains that his description of Devils Tower in Wyoming, that was chosen as the basis for the 1906 presidential proclamation of that National Monument. The town was named after Richard Irving Dodge in part because of his energetic commitment to creating this town as a railroad stop for cattle cars destine for Abilene and Kansas City.

Cowboys and Truck Stops

On the northeast end of Wyatt Earp Boulevard today, there is a Flying J truckstop where empty and smelly 53' cattle carriers congregate after delivering for a load at one of several the slaughterhouses. Empty refrigerated trailers hang about waiting to pick up finished meat products. Drivers wearing cowboy hats fill their semi-truck tanks with ultra-low sulfur diesel and their bellies full of weak coffee. Along the railroad tracks, especially on the western side of town, grain elevators tower over the landscape, for even though the days of free ranging cattle drives are over, production of feed remains a big industry. This is modern day Dodge City, which is not unlike that of the days of Wyatt Earp, rough and unsettled. Local young folk are easily bored of the historic romance of legendary law man Wyatt Earp, or 50's western television series, Gunsmoke, though, finding better opportunities for excitement at the Dodge City Roundup rodeo or the South Drive-in movie theater. Well off even dying Route 66, Dodge City remains today a little more than pit stop along little used US route 55 at the junction of US50. However, it has two of the world's largest beef processing plants, and the world's largest beef auction, and fortunately, the odors associated with this business don't seem noticeable downtown.

  • Last visit to Dodge City: Oct 2009
  • Intro Updated Nov 7, 2010
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Reviews (18)

Comments (1)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2009 at 3:17 PM

    It seems as though you got all the monuments in town. Your comments are superb for the detail and explanations of the facts/history.


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