In 1838, the United States government forcibly removed more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia, and sent them to Indian Territory (today known as Oklahoma). The impact to the Cherokee was devastating. Hundreds of Cherokee died during their trip west, and thousands more perished from the consequences of relocation. This tragic chapter in American and Cherokee history became known as the Trail of Tears, and culminated the implementation of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which mandated the removal of all American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to lands in the West.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates the removal of the Cherokee and the paths that 17 Cherokee detachments followed westward. Today the trail encompasses about 2,200 miles of land and water routes, and traverses portions of nine states.
The National Park Service, in partnership with other federal agencies, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners, administers the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
The Trail of Tears Association is a major partner with the National Park Service. The association is a national organization dedicated to the preservation, public awareness, and appreciation of the Trail of Tears.
Chief Vann House State Historic Site - The Chief Vann House Historic Site is a 23-acre park containing a two-story brick mansion built in 1804 by James Vann, a wealthy Cherokee chief. Interpretation focuses on the Vanns, a prominent Cherokee family living there in the early 1800s prior to the Trail of Tears. The state historic site also contains an interpretive center, 50-seat theater, sales area, picnic area, and 1-mile self-guiding trail to the Vann historic spring. Guided tours of the historic house are provided for all visitors. The Chief Vann House State Historic Site is at the intersection of Georgia Routes 225 and 52A, on the outskirts of Chatsworth, Murray County, Georgia. (706) 695-2598.
Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home - The museum property (almost six acres) includes the Major Ridge Home and grounds, recently excavated archeological foundations of outbuildings, wooded areas and shoreline of the Oostanaula River, and a ferry site. The Gaynelle Parrish Grizzard Center for Cherokee Studies, in an adapted historic structure onsite, is used for classes, lectures, workshops, and demonstrations related to the interpretation and understanding of Cherokee history and culture. The museum has a gift shop and accessible restrooms. The Chieftains tells the story of Major Ridge, the influential Ridge family including prominent son John Ridge, Cherokee history, and the Trail of Tears, as well as subsequent history of the home and region. The Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home is at 501 Riverside Parkway N.E., between the Georgia 53 spur and U.S. 27, in Rome, Georgia. (706) 291-9494.
New Echota Cherokee Capital State Historic Site - The historic site is a 198-acre park containing a visitor center; historic buildings; archeological remains of the town of New Echota; and several reconstructed buildings, including a middle-class Cherokee farmhouse, cabins, smoke house, barn, corn crib, stable, council house, Supreme Court building, and the "Cherokee Phoenix" newspaper office. New Echota served as the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 until 1838. Visitor center exhibits interpret Cherokee life and history and the Trail of Tears. Artifacts, clothing, and other items are displayed. The New Echota Cherokee Capital State Historic Site is along Georgia Route 225 about 1/2 mile east of I-75 in Calhoun, Gordon County, Georgia. (706) 624-1321.
You can reach most trail sites by auto or bicycle, or on foot. Some sites are along unpaved roads or along river corridors. An auto tour route has been marked along major highways that closely follow the original trail route. Follow the signs exhibiting the distinctive Trail of Tears National Historic Trail logo. Use guidebooks or ask locally for directions to individual trail sites.