The first travelway across southern Indiana was known as the Old Buffalo Trace or the Vincennes Trace. It was as well engineered as any road built today. Several modern roads are now built along its route.
The route was created by American bison moving from the salt licks of Kentucky to the Illinois prairie.
Thousands of these huge beasts once migrated from the falls of the Ohio River where they converged to cross the river.
It stretched northwest to Vincennes where the buffalo dispersed to graze on the open prairies of Illinois.
The trace varied from 12-20 feet wide and had been in use for centuries. In some places, it had worn through solid rock to a depth of 12 feet.
It was also the route pioneers used. Many booked passage on riverboats as far as the Falls (now the site of Louisville) then set off to the west along this trail. In 1819, one of several taverns which sprang up along the route reported more than 5,000 travelers headed to Missouri. By 1820, the first stage coach line was set up to run the length of the trace from New Albany to Vincennes.
Today the Buffalo Trace is fading into obscurity. Very few remnants are left of the deep scars of millions of hooves and wheels. There are several places around the Springs Valley Lake where if you look carefully, you can see remnants of this historic trail.
Hwy 150 and the Buffalo Trace are now part of a National Scenic Byway called the Indiana Historic Pathways in recognition of their important historic significance.
Lost and Forgotten Historic Roads: The Buffalo Trace, a case study.
For a downloadable flier on the Buffalo Trace click here.
Three maps have been developed tracing the route of the trace across the Hoosier National Forest area:
Map 1, Map 2, Map 3
Link to Indiana Historic Pathway Scenic Byway (This link leaves the Hoosier National Forest Website)