Skip to main content

The Michigan Indian Trails We Travel Everyday


Indian Encampment

If you think about it, it makes sense. The routes that the native Michigan tribes made and utilized for thousands of years cover the same ground that Michigan Department of Transportation has paved and we are using today as we cross the state to visit friends in Chicago visit the wineries in Traverse City or watch the Thanksgiving parade in downtown Detroit. 


Amazingly, Michigan's first trails were not made by Indians but ranging buffalo herds in migration. This was especially true on the St. Joseph trail in Southwest Michigan.


The major trails in lower Michigan tended to link Indian settlements of Mackinac, Detroit, Saginaw, and Niles. The area around Saginaw had the most native American settlements in the Great Lakes region.  


 Library and Archives Canada,



Major Michigan Trail Systems

Indian Trails of Lower Michigan


Shore Line Trail - A minor trail starting near Toledo and hugging the shore of Lake Erie, the Straits of Detroit. Past Fort Gratiot and Lake Huron to a spot near White Rock. White Rock was considered a solemn spiritual place of offering. Today this route is mirrored by Lakeshore Drive from Detroit to Lexington and M-25 north. This trail continues north along the entire shore to Cheboygan. It was considered a minor trail as travel via canoe was preferred along this route. Michigan chose to utilize much of the original Native American trail along Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay to create M-25. Paving of Michigan's First Scenic Highway was started in 1933 and completed in 1940. 
   
Saginaw Trail - One of the oldest trails, this Sauk trail system that went from the Straits of Detroit to Saginaw. Today this starts at the Detroit River and heads northwest up Woodward Avenue to Pontiac then continues up Dixie Highway through Flint to Saginaw. 
SandRidge Trail Still Exists Today.
SandRidge Trail - An ancient trail from Saginaw to Port Austin in Michigan's Thumb. Used primarily for access to the rich hunting ground of the  Thumb. Today, M-25 follows much of the same route. However, the old trail is still evident and marked as Sand Road in Huron County. A major canoe passage across Saginaw Bay occurred at Oak Point via Charity Island to reach the AuSable River. 

St. Joseph's Trail - A major east-west system that was also called Route du Sieur de la Salle, and the Territorial Road. When the Territorial road was first built from Plymouth to St Joseph a portion of the road was ‘corduroy.’ which mean wood logs placed closely together in a fashion resembling the ribs in corduroy fabric.  Today this trail is part of U.S. 12, and vast parts of I-94. 

Cheboygan Trail - An interior Michigan trail to the Mackinac straits hugging the eastern forests. State road M-33 follows much of this trail system today. 

Mackinac Trail - An interior northern Michigan trial to the Mackinac straits hugging the western forests. I-75 covers much of this trail system today. 

Assiniboin Encampment on Upper Missouri between 1860 and 1870. Detroit Institute of Arts

Sault-Green Bay Trail -  An east-west route across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This system is followed by US 2 and State Rte. 35.

Grand River Trail - Trail between Detroit and Grand Rapids, whose route is now followed by the trunk line US 16.

Shiawassee Trail - Starting just south of Detroit then skirting today's Farmington through Southfield. Ultimately terminating in Saginaw.
  
Great Sauk Trail - This major system ran between Detroit and Chicago. In 1820 Henry Schoolcraft was on expedition with Lewis Cass near Michigan City, Indiana, described the trail, as a "plain horse path, which is considerably traveled by traders, hunters, and others..." and said that a stranger could not follow it without the services of a guide because of the numerous side trails. It was so well established that the state followed the trail for the Chicago Road (M-12) construction in 1827.

Cadillac - Traverse City Trail - Also called Old Indian Trail - Ancient system from 700 BC that runs from Cadillac to Traverse Bay. Today this is a marked system with map and guide. This trail system is maintained by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of the Odawa. 


Related


Michigan's Thumb ThumbWind

Comments

Post a Comment

Most Viewed

Can You Climb Turnip Rock?

Turnip Rock has been deemed one of the Amazing Rock Formations in America by CNN. Indeed its one of the most photographed attractions in the Upper Thumb. However, the unique rock formation is located on private land and considered part of the Pointe Aux Barques cottage community. 

Access to Turnip Rock is only available as a guest of a member of Pointe Aux Barques community or if you access by water with a kayak or canoe. That being said you must stay in the water or right along the edge of the water.   

As soon as you attempt to climb up the famous rock or its equally favorite neighbor the "thumbnail" your trespassing on private property. Even worse is that the entire formation is subject to extreme conditions and has a tendency to weather, crumble and fall apart. Climbing will undoubtedly cause some minor, but real damage. It would quickly add up if everyone did it. You will likely end up arrested and having to spend some time in Bad Axe at the county jail. Which would blow …

Upper Thumb Festivals and Events

Bad Axe

Huron Community Fair- This end of summer offers good old fashioned 4-H agricultural exhibits, a midway full of rides and attractions, and an arena of events that include rodeos, tractor, and team pulling, demolition derbies and live entertainment.  Bay Port

Fish Sandwich Festival- This is considered one of the original shoreline festivals that has been featured by  ABC's 20/20, and NBC's Today Show. It celebrates one of the tastiest creations of the Upper Thumb. An original recipe fish sandwich that takes two hands to hold. Held in early August  Caseville

Shanty Days - This mid-winter festival in February began in 1992.  The major events can be found at Caseville County Park and in Caseville Harbor. The highlights include a Polar Bear Dip, Chili Cook-off Potty Trotty and Broom Ball Hockey.   Ribstock- It starts to warm up in the Upper Thumb in June and it also signals the start of festival season. Ribstock is a weekend full of top county western bands, line-dancing lessons …