Press Releases

WASHINGTON— Legislation authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to designate the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday and is headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law. 

The route, operated from 1858-1861 by the Butterfield Overland Mail Company and also known as the Butterfield Stage, was used to transport U.S. mail and passengers between St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Francisco, California, serving as the route of the longest stagecoach operation in history. It became known as the “ox-bow route” due to its curved path comprised of approximately 3,553 miles of trail routes in eight states: Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. 

“This is a long-overdue recognition for the Butterfield 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. 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,” Boozman said.

“Senator Boozman’s persistent efforts will help preserve the Butterfield Trail for Arkansans in the decades to come. I’m pleased to join him and support its passage in the House to preserve this historic national treasure,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“I am proud to support this effort led by Senator Boozman to designate Butterfield Trail as a national historic trail. The 170-year-old trail, reaching 3,000 miles from Arkansas to California, is steeped in history, and this designation will ensure that future generations learn about its importance,” Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) said.

Boozman amended the original legislation to specifically preclude any potential effect on energy development, production or transmission as a result of the trail designation and has worked with every senator that would see this trail pass through their state to ensure they support the effort. 

In 2018, after conducting a study to evaluate the significance, feasibility, suitability and desirability of designating the routes associated with the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail, the National Park Service (NPS) announced they meet the requirements. The study was required by a provision of Public Law 111-11 authored by Boozman during his tenure as Congressman for the Third District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The routes from St. Louis and Memphis merged in Fort Smith, and the Butterfield Overland Mail Company’s stagecoaches traveled through much of Arkansas. Stagecoaches made stops between Memphis and Fort Smith in St. Francis, Prairie, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Yell, Logan and Franklin counties. The northwestern route that came out of Missouri included stops in Benton, Washington and Crawford counties. 

Four segments of the Butterfield Trail in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Potts home, a well-preserved Arkansas way station along the path, is still standing in Pope County and is maintained as the Potts Inn Museum by the Pope County Historical Foundation.

Senator Boozman viewed an authentic Butterfield stagecoach, a piece of the trail’s history earlier this year.