Walk Past: 8 Amazing Native American Trail Marker Trees

”Goal Posts” Marker Tree

(images via: Trail Journals, Trailtree.com and RowJimmy)

One of the most unusual Indian Marker Trees can be found at the aptly named Indian Tomb Hollow of Bankhead National Forest, itself located in northwestern Alabama’s Lawrence County. Legend has it that over 200 years ago, warriors of the local Creek and Chickasaw tribes fought a bloody battle in the area now covered by the forest. Some say the tree was bent and molded to its current shape in order to point out the burial places of each tribe’s fallen braves.

(images via: TJS1963)

The tree might alternatively be a so-called “Boundary Tree”, bent into an unusual shape to mark the border between two tribes’ territories. This unique tree and others in the southeastern United States were documented by the late Elaine Blohm Jordan in her book Indian Trail Trees.

(images via: FirstNations Forums and Echota Cherokee Tribe)

The “Goalposts Tree” isn’t the only Trail Marker Tree found in Indian Tomb Hollow. The stark and somewhat sinister twister above isn’t something you’d really want to see on a dark and moonlit night… then again, why would anyone be in a place called “Indian Tomb Hollow” after midnight anyway?

Indian Trail Marker Tree Postcard

(image via: Billy’s Postcards)

Native American Trail Marker Trees aren’t a recent discovery; they’ve been noted for well over a century and some were even used to their intended purposes by early European and American explorers and fur-trappers. Later on, settlers settled and commerce followed. The antique postcard above, issued by Standard Oil as part of their “Let’s Explore Ohio” series, pictures a noteworthy Trail Marker Tree located off Route 23 just north of Upper Sandusky. Wonder if it’s still there, being that Standard Oil isn’t.

Long & Low Indian Marker Trees

(images via: Neil Sperry’s Gardens and Mountain Stewards)

Different Native American tribes had different ways of doing things, and those differences extended to the way they shaped Trail Marker Trees. The Comanche, for instance, typically bent young trees near their base so that their trunks would grow into a long horizontal arch before curving upright again. The Gateway Park Comanche Indian Marker Tree and the California Crossing Marker Tree, both located in Dallas, Texas, are perfect examples of the Comanche style.

(image via: Kabljocky/Panoramio)

What’s really amazing is that so many “long & low” Trail Marker Trees are still standing after as much as 300 years. Besides withstanding the usual ravages of old age, trees like the North Carolina specimen above have had their natural equilibrium and circulation symptoms severely discombobulated.

Hot Tree Time Machine

(images via: State of the Ozarks)

If Harriet Wills Hamilton of Rogersville, Missouri were to paraphrase Dazed and Confused‘s Dave Wooderson, she might say “That’s what I love about these Trail Marker Trees, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” Hamilton was a mere slip of a girl back in 1941 when she was photographed on the Black Walnut Trail Marker Tree that still stands outside Smallin Cave. Sixty-eight years later, Hamilton returned to re-enact her much earlier encounter with the little-changed tree.

(image via: AndyArthur)

Taken as a whole, Trail Marker Trees are an outstanding example of Native Americans building to last, in some cases centuries, without the aid of metallurgy or stone-working. Modern Americans could learn a little from their ancient predecessors, as this slowly but surely smothered, 30-year-old steel trail marker at Long Lake in the Adirondacks so graphically illustrates.