Before there were highways, Native Americans had a system of trails marked by bent trees. In the 1850s, a Lake County surveyor noted one of these trees and used it as a landmark. The tree is gone, but a metal detector might turn up the steel rod and give a clue to what the tree was pointing to ...
Antioch artist researches ancient guides to Great Lakes paths
Before there were highways, local Native Americans had a system of trails marked by bent trees.
Dennis Downes, an Antioch artist, has been working for the last three decades to document examples of trail marker trees around the country, but particularly in the Great Lakes region.
In Lake County alone, examples of the trees have been documented in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Deerfield and Antioch, though living examples have all but disappeared here, he said. The trees have to be at least 180 years old because most Native Americans were pushed out of Lake County by the 1830s.
Downes will display a set of 30 photographs of past and present trail-marker trees in the Great Lakes region in an exhibit this month at the Northbrook Historical Society. The show will also include Downes' 5-foot bronze sculpture of a trail marker tree. A similar 16-foot bronze sculpture of his was installed outside the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda in 2004.