Kane Springs, San Juan County, was a major water stop along the historic Spanish Trail, in use from 1829 to 1848. Large trade caravans halted here and drank from the abundant spring waters. In autumn months, pack trains carried woolen textiles and raw wool over the trail from the settlements on the upper Rio Grande to the coastal towns of California. On reaching California, wool merchants exchanged their goods for horses and mules, which were driven back to New Mexico the following spring. It took trail riders over two months to complete the journey.
The 1,120-mile route, from Santa Fe, New Mexico; to Los Angeles, California, followed a northward looping course that passed through the rugged southern and central landscapes of Utah. This trail avoided the deep canyons of the Colorado River and the hostile Indians of Arizona.
In 1848, at the end of the Mexican war, the territory encompassing the Spanish Trail became part of the United States. Thereafter, caravan traffic followed direct east-west lines. In the post-trail period, the waters of Kane Springs refreshed weary travelers, cattle drovers, pioneer settlers, and outlaws.