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Exploring the Butterfield Trail:

Unveiling Arizona's Historic Connection


Date: Friday, July 21, 2023

Time: Noon to 1:30 p.m. MST

Register Here



Join us for an enlightening webinar as we delve into the fascinating history and significance of the Butterfield Trail, a newly designated National Historic Trail. Signed into law by President Biden on January 5, 2023, this trail served as a crucial link between the eastern and western United States during a pivotal era in American history.

Active from 1858 to 1861, the Butterfield Trail predates the railroad and spanned from St. Louis to San Francisco, crossing the southern regions of Arizona. Its historical importance was recognized by both the Union and the Confederacy at the onset of the Civil War. General Carlton's California Column followed this trail eastward, reclaiming the vital Union connection with California. Furthermore, the Butterfield Trail served as a blueprint for the subsequent development of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Now, the states traversed by the Butterfield Trail are embarking on comprehensive planning initiatives at a state level. In Arizona, we aim to create an interpretive strategy that seamlessly weaves together the diverse layers of our rich heritage, encompassing prehistory to the present day. By integrating the disciplines of natural history, such as geology, hydrology, and botany, we envision a holistic cultural experience for all.


Collaborating closely with Arizona Butterfield Trail authority, Gerald T. Ahnert, work has already commenced with a captivating story map project sponsored by the University of Arizona's GIS Technology program. Future planning phases will engage with the numerous jurisdictions intersected by the Arizona route, laying a solid foundation for more in-depth studies required to firmly establish the trail within the fabric of Arizona's culture and history.

During this webinar, we will provide an overview of the Butterfield Trail's historical significance and explore the potential for its integration into Arizona's cultural heritage. Key stakeholders, including experts in history, geography, and heritage preservation, will share their insights on the trail's impact and the importance of preserving its legacy. We invite you to join us in this interactive session as we embark on a journey to unearth the stories and hidden treasures of the Butterfield Trail.

Register now to secure your spot and be part of this illuminating webinar. Let's uncover the past and shape the future as we rediscover Arizona's historic connection through the Butterfield Trail.


Gerald T. Ahnert has spent the last fifty years walking and researching the route and history of the Butterfield Trail. The author of numerous articles about aspects of the trail, he is also the author of The Butterfield Trail and Overland Mail Company in Arizona 1858-1861, published in 2011. Mr. Ahnert is now leading the work to establish the Arizona Chapter of the Butterfield National Historic Trail Association, an organization collaborating with the National Park Service to document and interpret this important part of our nation’s history.  


Helen Erickson teaches preservation planning at the University of Arizona, where she also directs collaborative student internships with the National Park Service. Ms. Erickson serves as the national American Society of Landscape Architects’ liaison to the Historic American Landscapes Survey, and she has documented numerous historic landscapes, including the homestead area of Valles Caldera National Preserve, Faraway Ranch (Chiricahua National Monument), the Fort Bliss historic district, Camp Navajo, and Fort Apache.

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