(UNDATED) - The Hoosier National Forest is working to locate and Interpret the Buffalo Trace.
They have used government Land Office survey notes, regional histories, historic maps and historical society resources and others to locate Buffalo Trace, but they need your help.
The Buffalo Trace (Vincennes Trace), extending through southern Indiana between Louisville and Vincennes began as a natural migration route for bison from grasslands and salt licks in Kentucky to prairies in Illinois became an American Indian trail. Later early American settlers used the Buffalo Trace to move livestock, facilitate commerce between Louisville and Vincennes, and ultimately settle the Northwest Territory. Lewis and Clark, George Rogers Clark, Benjamin Harrison and Abraham Lincoln all traveled sections of this road. Today it is part of the newly designated Historic Pathways National Scenic Byway.
A website, www.indianashistoricpathways.org, has themed itineraries that include interesting stops and highlights to explore along this historic route.
Of particular interest are the William Rector survey notes of 1805. Rector was tasked with surveying the trace prior to the establishment of an Indian treaty line. Hoosier personnel have digitized both the GLO and Rector surveys to fine tune its location when overlain with aerial photography and topographic maps.
Over the years, forest archaeologists have attempted to ground-truth segments that cross Hoosier National Forest lands and have found some success. Three segments have been found in Orange County. One segment in the Springs Valley trail area is about 50 feet long by seven feet wide and is entrenched seven feet deep. An interpretive sign is located at the trail head. The second section is visible in the road cut of State Road 37, about one half mile north of Pine Valley. The third segment is about 53 feet wide by 541 feet long and is embedded 61/2 feet deep.
Archaeologists Samuel Snell and Ryan Jackson, who identified this segment, co-wrote "Lost and Forgotten Historic Roads: The Buffalo Trace, a Case Study" presented at the 2013 National Historic Road Conference in Indianapolis. The paper is available on the Hoosier National Forest website under Special Places -- Buffalo Trace.
An ultimate goal is to locate the route that the trace followed from the salt licks of Kentucky to the Illinois prairies. The Hoosier National Forest's focus has been narrower since only a small segment of the trace crosses the Hoosier National Forest.
Countless individuals have contributed to the knowledge and understanding of the Buffalo Trace. Officials continue to meet people interested in research and exchanging information to keep its legacy alive.
Anyone interested in helping can contact Angie Krieger at 275-5987.
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