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Bill making Arkansas Butterfield Trail a National Historic Trail headed to Biden's desk

The Butterfield Overland Trail is made of more than 3,000 miles of routes in 8 states. A bill is now headed to President Biden's desk to make it a historic trail.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — If you're familiar with Arkansas geography then you know the Butterfield Overland Trail is a significant part of history. It will soon get the recognition it deserves thanks to a bill authored by Arkansas Senator John Boozman.

The bill would designate the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail. It's now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk after passing in both the House and Senate.

Senator Boozman says this is a long-overdue recognition for the historic Arkansas trail.

"Designating it as a National Historic Trail will preserve the story of westward expansion and Arkansas’s significant role in the growth and development of our country," Boozman wrote in a press release. "This is the result of the vision of Arkansans passionate and determined to achieve this designation. I’m proud to champion this initiative and get it across the finish line."

The Butterfield Overland Trail is made of more than 3,000 miles of trail routes in eight states. It starts in California and makes its way to Arkansas with stagecoach stops in a lot of cities in our area including Fort Smith and Springdale.

This route was operated by the Butterfield Overland Mail Company from 1858 to 1861. 

Angie Albright is the Director of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History and says this is how people were getting places and spreading news during that time period.

"It's the longest trail of its kind in the world that we know of. So even though it was just for a short time, and it ended as the Civil War was starting," she said. "We know that it marks a really significant period of transportation history in Arkansas."

A significant stop in the trail is what’s known as Fitzgerald Station on Old Wire Road in Springdale. The barn was used by Butterfield Overland Mail Company and was added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 2003.

"They would have had a tavern there and probably some nearby ins and overnight places for people to stay overnight as well," Albright said. "And later, it would become part of the Old Wire Road and part of the Civil War transportation route. And it's also where two different parts of the Cherokee Tribe stayed along their route to Oklahoma."

There is no timeline for when President Biden is expected to sign this bill into law.

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