Beginning in 1859, the Smoky Hill Trail ran from Atchison, KS, on the Missouri River, west to Denver, CO. It began as a route to the Colorado gold fields and later was the the main route for Butterfield's Overland Despatch. The Trail primarily followed the Smoky Hill River from Junction City, KS to the High Plains of Colorado and then on to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. In 1863 the Kansas Pacific Railroad began building along the Trail. In 1866 it reached Junction City and then in 1870 it arrived in Denver. In later years highways, such as U.S. Hwy. 40 and I-70, followed the same route. Long before its use during the United States expansion westward, the Trail was utilized by Native Americans for trade and travel. Then during the late 1800s the Trail witnessed many confrontations between the U.S. Army and the Plains Indians. The Smoky Hill Trail Association was formed in 2007 and is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and interpretation of the Trail. The Association holds an annual conference each fall, publishes a quarterly newsletter, the Overland Despatch, and is actively engaged in seeking National Historic Trail status for the Trail. The Trail is marked with limestone markers from Ellsworth all the way to the Colorado state line. The markers are placed at the intersections of the Trail with the north/south county roads. Each marker has a groove cut across the top indicating the direction of travel for the Trail.