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Buffalo Trace (road): Map


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The Buffalo Trace was a trackway running through what are now the Americanmarker states of Kentuckymarker, Indianamarker, and Illinoismarker. Originally formed by migrating bison, the trace crossed the Ohio River near the Falls of the Ohio and the Wabash River near Vincennesmarker. It later became an important land route for settlers in Indiana, and was known by various names, including Vincennes Trace', Louisville Trace, Clarksville Trace, Old Indian Road, and the Paoli Pike after being turned into a turnpike.. U.S. Route 150 between Vincennes and Louisvillemarker follows the path of the Trace.


Map of the Trace

The Trace was created by millions of migrating bison that were numerous in the region from the Great Lakes to Tennessee. It was part of a greater buffalo route, that went from present-day Big Bone Lick State Parkmarker in Kentucky, through Bullitt's Lick south of present-day Louisville, and across the Falls of the Ohio River. In Indiana the trace had a few divergent trails which gathered together again north of Jaspermarker near several large ponds for buffalo to wallow. Due to the number of buffalo that used the trace, the road was sometimes twenty feet wide. A major salt lick at present-day French Lick, Indianamarker was another intersection of divergent trails. The Trace crossed the White River at points, near present-day Petersburgmarker and Portersville, Indianamarker. The trail had a major crossing at the Wabash River, from which it split into separate trails leading West across Illinoismarker to the Mississippi River. François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes founded a trading post at the Wabash crossing in 1732, which became Vincennes, Indianamarker.

The trace served as a road through early Indiana and was very important to the development of the state. George Rogers Clark used the road to return to Louisville by land after his Illinois Campaign. With the United States taking control of the Illinois country, the trace became a busy route, which made it a target for thieves and war parties. One of the first attacks on American travellers, occurred in 1779, just after Clark's militia took control of Vincennes, and led to the Battle of the White River Forks. In 1785 and 1786, explorer John Filson travelled by river to Vincennes and returned via the trace, documenting his travels along the road. General Josiah Harmar also kept a log when he led the First American Regiment on a return march from Vincennes 1786.

Following the Treaty of Greenvillemarker in 1795, settlers poured into the western territories, and many of them kept logs of their journeys along the Buffalo Trace. In late 1799, U.S. postmaster Joseph Habersham established a mail route from Louisville, through Vincennes, to Kaskaskia along the trace. The route began 22 March 1800, and ran every four weeks. The route was extended to Cahokiamarker the following year. In 1802, Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison recommended that the Trace be improved into a road fit for wagons, with inns for travelers every thirty to forty miles. The Trace was so well known that in August 1804, Harrison used it as a treaty boundary with Indians. The treaty opened up all land South of the trace to white settlement, and William Rector was hired to survey the road in 1805. Rector's survey of the road provides an important record of the actual Buffalo Trace.

The Buffalo Trace was the primary travel route between the Louisvillemarker area and Vincennes; two-thirds of settlers coming from the Louisville area into the interior of Indiana used the trace. Rangers were hired to protect travelers using the road, eventually doing so on horseback in 1812. During the War of 1812, Harrison assigned 150 men to patrol the trace between Vincennes and Louisville, "so as to completely protect the citizens and the road."

Because the Buffalo Trace remained the primary road shortly after statehood in 1816, the Indiana legislature had the Trace paved from New Albany to Vincennes as part of its internal improvements program. It was paved all the way to Paoli, Indianamarker, when the state of Indiana had to turn over operation of the road to a private organization as part of their negotiations to avoid bankruptcy, who made it a turnpike, calling it the New Albany-Paoli Turnpike.The first stagecoach service along the length of the trace from New Albanymarker to Vincennesmarker was started in 1820—the first stagecoach service in Indiana. It also served the population of Floyd County, Indianamarker, particularly Greenvillemarker, Galenamarker, and Floyds Knobsmarker.

Other names for the Trace through its history have been Clarksville Trace, Harrison's Road, Kentucky Road, Vincennes Trace, and Lan-an-zo-ki-mi-wi (an Indian name meaning "buffalo road").

Present day

US-150 from Vincennes to New Albany, follows the path of the Trace. A large section of the original trace can be seen south of French Lickmarker in Orange County, Indianamarker, along the Springs Valley Trail System. There is an attempt to make it a National Scenic Byway. In total, driving US-150 to coincide with the Buffalo Trace has a length of .

Parts of the trace are now protected, including sections in the Hoosier National Forest and a small tract within Buffalo Trace Park, a preserve maintained by Harrison County, Indianamarker.


  1. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 187
  2. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 184
  3. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 185-6
  4. Wilson, Early Indiana Trails and Surveys, 349
  5. McCafferty, Michael. Native American Place Names of Indiana. (University of Illinois Press, 2008) pg.172
  6. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 188
  7. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 190
  8. Harmar went to Vincennes by way of the Red Banks Trace, a North-South trail connecting Vincennes to Henderson, Kentucky. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 200
  9. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 207
  10. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 217
  11. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 218
  12. Cayton, Andrew. Frontier Indiana (Indiana University Press, 1998) pg.184
  13. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 223–4
  14. Robinson, 38-39
  15. Wilson, The Buffalo Trace, 238
  16. Kleber, John E. Encyclopedia of Louisville. (University Press of Kentucky, 2001). pg.302.
  17. Robinson pg.38
  18. Robinson pg.39
  19. The Buffalo Trace United States Forest Service, accessed September 2, 2008
  20. Wissing, Douglas. Scenic Driving Indiana (Globe Pequot, 2001) pg.1

See also

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