I enjoy driving across the Sauk Trail where it crossed Indiana through Dyer, Merrillville, Valparaiso, Westville, LaPorte, and New Carlisle. This was something I’ve wanted to cross off my bucket list for a couple of years.
For some time, I’ve been interested in the trails used by the Indians in Indiana. The Buffalo Trace in southern Indiana and the Sauk Trail in the northwest corner are the most well known. I find it particularly interesting that buffalo and deer first used these trails, followed by Indians on foot, fur traders, and finally by settlers in wagons from the east.
The Sauk Trail ran from Rock Island, Illinois, through northwestern Indiana, up across southern Michigan to Detroit. The Indiana portion today follows the early route of the Lincoln Highway. With this in mind, we gathered up our maps and other resources to use roadside archaeology to get some idea of where early Indians traversed our state.
Geographically in Indiana, the Sauk Trail follows where the prairie meets the eastern deciduous and northern conifer forests at the southern end of Lake Michigan. For centuries, Indians traveled along paths in single file until they had beaten a narrow trail into the soil. They went around hills, lakes, swamps, and thick underbrush. Thus, an original trail was quite crooked. Later, when surveyors were laying out the United States Road from Detroit to Chicago, an early successor to the Sauk Trail, some of this crookedness was straightened out. Again, when the original Lincoln Highway was platted through the area, the trail’s direction received further smoothing.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I enjoy touring on Indiana’s two-lane highways. The western part of the original Lincoln Highway in Indiana provides a realistic impression of the Sauk Trail of yesteryear. If you want an in-depth look at this section of the Lincoln Highway, I invite you to visit the Lincoln Highway Association website.
To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.