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Brooke Self
Old Spanish Trail Association Chairman Mark Henderson directs workshop participants in principles of trail identification and stewardship near where historians believe the old trail lies along the Interstate 15 in Barstow.

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Discovering the old Spanish Trail in Barstow

The Ancient I-15


BARSTOW • A group of Barstow history enthusiasts and participants from as far as Utah met this weekend in a workshop to study the old Spanish trail that runs directly through Barstow and was the first major trail that existed between Santa Fe and Los Angeles.

“We want to protect and preserve the trail,” said Robert Hilburn, president of the Mojave River Valley Museum, who was involved in organizing the event.

Students in the workshop learned the principles of trail identification and stewardship, use of GPS devices and other field equipment and how to preserve the trail for future generations.

The Old Spanish Trail was pioneered by Mexican trader Antonio Armijo in 1829 and was a horse and burro pack route that connected Santa Fe and Los Angeles. As travelers sought adequate water, grazing, short distances, smoother terrain and safer passages, additional parallel and intertwining routes developed. Many of these routes followed older trails developed by the American Indians, according to an environmental assessment by the National Park Service and United States Department of Interior from 2001.

“It’s a really neat trail. You walk along on either side as you go and there are lithic scatters — places where people sat and made stone tools,” Hilburn said. “It’s really obvious that there’s been human activity there.”

Participants in the workshop will be the first members of the Old Spanish Trail Association (OSTA) High Desert chapter, as one did not previously exist.

On Friday, the group received classroom instruction at the Bureau of Land Management Field Office in Barstow and on Saturday students studied the trail in the field using GPS and mapping devices to record their findings.

Anyone interested in joining the new OSTA High Desert chapter is encouraged to contact the Barstow BLM Field office for more information.

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