Native American Trail Marker Tree

Native American Trail Marker Tree Photo

This tree has damage at the bend so I’m not sure if it is a Trail Marker Tree

Trail Marker Trees are hardwood trees that were intentionally shaped by Native Americans throughout North America with distinctive characteristics that convey that the tree was shaped by man rather than a tree simply deformed by nature or disease.(Trail Trees)

I read about these trees years ago and have always been on the lookout for them. There are lots of controversy about these trees and I’m not sure what I think about them.

These distinctively shaped trees have been photographed and documented in the Great Lakes Region by scientists and historians since the early 1800’s.

The trees were bent over forming an arch and held in place by securing them to a stake in the ground or tying them to a large stone with a leather strap or vine. During this process a new branch would be allowed to grow skyward on the top of the arch forming a new trunk. The old trunk would then be removed creating the knob, one of the distinctive characteristics of the Trail Marker Trees.

A web site aimed at documenting Trail Trees: Trail Tree Project

An article written by a photography friend: Indian Trail Trees by Ricky Hobbs

So what do you think? Are these unique trees, or just oddities of nature? Have you ever seen one?

Trail Marker Tree by Lakes Region Historical Society

Photo is from the 1890’s supplied by Lakes Region Historical Society, Lake County, IL.

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  1. Maria Rosa January 23, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Totally interesting photos and information

  2. Cindy January 23, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    How interesting!
    I think your picture looks like one for sure! Couldn’t the damage have come from an animal of some sort, or a fungus, after the fact?

  3. Steve Creek January 23, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    You maybe right Cindy! I need to go back to this tree and get photos of the damage.

  4. Gail Spreen January 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    There is an excellent and very extensive new book out called Native American Trail Marker Trees, Marking Paths Through the Wilderness. It is written by Dennis Downes, the leading authority on the Trail Marker Trees. Check it out.

  5. Steve Creek January 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Thank you Gail for the info on the book.

  6. Nature in the Burbs January 27, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Very interesting. I will be on the lookout!

  7. Karen Heried August 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    It actually looks just like some Dennis Downes and others have documented as trail marker trees. We just learned about these special trees by accident. Seen a photo of one on-line and discovered the old odd shaped oak in our front yard is one.