Un-named Trails

It is in the nature of human history that the life experience of pre-literate peoples are passed down to us by the literate "discoverers" of those people. As this immutable fact relates to Native American trails, the Native American trails that we know of were the ones that the earliest European-Americans (Daniel Boone and others) were shown by the Native Peoples, and the ones that served some purpose to early European-Americans. Thus, we are aware of several native American trails that, taken together, are called "The Warrior's Path". We may be vaguely conscious of the fact that these "known" trails were not the only routes that Native Americans used during their nearly 15,000 year experience in Kentucky, but little effort has been given to identifying most of the trails that were useful to Native Americans, but were never recorded, mapped or given names by the early Europeans and Americans who passed through Kentucky. In this section of the guide, I will attempt to re-construct some of those lost "un-named" trails. I will use topographic maps and a few basic principles of trail finding to link significant geographic areas of eastern and southern Kentucky. In contrast to the known trails that we explore in other parts of this guide, we have no intermediate waypoints to give us clues as to the routing of these trails. Even though we lack the predetermined destinations, the same basic trail-finding principles I have used with known trails can be used to tease out other likely trail routings through the hills of our region. As a substitute for known historic trail beginning and ending points, we will link together geographical features that would have no doubt been familiar to early Native American travelers. The features of most obvious practical value are major waterways: the Kentucky River, the Cumberland River, the Licking River, the Big Sandy and the Little Sandy Rivers, and others. Our methodology is simple: link major watercourses by following lesser watercourses upstream through linked hollows to creeks that flow downstream to another major watercourse. Preliminary application of this basic principle has led to a useful observation: County lines often lie along these same suggested trail routes. This should not be surprising. When the early cartographers were laying out county boundaries, they were on foot and on horseback, and would have sought out the route through the hills that was the easiest to traverse, while still serving to establish a boundary line that conformed as closely as possible to the generalized boundary that political interests had agreed upon. Another interesting finding relates to the fact that Gray Hawk is a well-known waypoint for the Warrior's Path. As viewed on a topographic map or on the ground, Gray Hawk seems to be a rather innocuous place, and its existence as a waypoint on the Warrior's Path seems to be arbitrary. To the contrary, Gray Hawk may have been an important crossroads of the principle north-south and east-west trails through this part of Kentucky. I have identified a very useable trail connecting the Kentucky River in the northeast with the Cumberland River in the southwest that passes directly through Gray Hawk! One can even speculate that, at some periods in the past, significant permanent Native American settlements existed at Gray Hawk.