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PAWNEE ROCK, one of the most famous landmarks on the Santa Fe Trail, is located just north of Pawnee Rock, Kansas. Originally, the landmark was over 150 feet tall.


Matt Field, who traveled the Santa Fe Trail in 1840, later wrote, “Pawnee Rock springs like a huge wart from the carpeted green of the prairie”.


Pawnee Rock 2Traders, soldiers and emigrants who stopped, carved their names into the brown sandstone. Some of these names are still visible among the graffiti of the more recent visitors. In 1848, James Birch, a soldier on his way to the Mexican War, wrote:



“Pawnee Rock was covered with names carved by the men who has passed it. It was so full that I could find no place for mine.”
Pawnee Rock was long a meeting place of the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho and Cheyenne Native American tribes. Numerous battles were fought at Pawnee Rock between the tribes. Pawnee Rock was for many years a place where Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Cheyenne and Pawnee tribes held their councils of war and peace.


Pawnee Rock was a landmark on the Santa Fe Trail. It served as a lookout place for both Trail travelers as well as Native Americans. It was a favorite camping spot for caravans bound for Santa Fe. Once camped there, the rock afforded some protection against attack. Many travelers and traders on the Santa Fe trail considered Pawnee Rock the most dangerous place on the Central Plains. It also marked for travelers the halfway point between Missouri and Santa Fe.

Pawnee Rock 1


Many stories have been told about Pawnee Rock and how it got the name. In one story, Kit Carson was on his first trip west and only seventeen. He was working for his passageon a wagon train which camped near Pawnee Rock. While on guard duty, he shot his own mule, thinking it was an attacking Pawnee. His associates commemorated his experience with the name: Pawnee Rock.






123 E 14th St,

Larned, KS

(620) 285-3114 802


E 14th St, Larned, KS

(620) 285-2300