55 Mile Journey Through History: Old Indian Trail Cadillac to Traverse City

The beautiful scenery and prosperous land of Cadillac and Traverse City was enjoyed and harvested many years before highways and industry came along. 

Discovering this history is possible today on the Old Indian Trail - a 55 miles long journey marked with 33 historic markers. 32 of the historic markers are placed alongside roads, making it possible to drive along the majority of the trail.

This trail was used by the Anishnaabe people in the 1200s. They later formed into the Three Fires, consisting of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Tribes. There is evidence linking the trail, and the native people as far back as 600 BC.

The historic markers were made possible by Milo Petoskey Crosby in the late 1800s, and was later finished by James Comp and Ed Babcock in 1987.

Although it is not recommended to hike along the trail (as much of it intersects with major highways and private property), history buffs can still enjoy the journey along the Old Indian Trail by driving.

Here is a list of notable trail markers to explore, courtesy of the Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau. The location of all 33 markers can be found when you download a copy of the trail map to bring along your journey.

1. “LAKE MITCHELL MARKER”

(GPS: 44.264082, -85.471926)

This marker can be found nearby Big Clam Lake, now known as Lake Mitchell. Although Natives inhabited this land seasonally, the Anishinaabe people harvested rich and natural foods when possible.

3. “BOON MARKER”

(GPS: 44.281173, -85.491706)

Located here are recognizable garden sights where several species of corn, beans and squash were grown at least 1200 years ago.

6. “OLD ASH MARKER”

(GPS: 44.324314, -85.508833)

Ash trees once covered the area, which was the most useful wood for making native tools. No Ash trees are left largely due to the Emerald Ash Borer.

9. “MEAUWATAKA MARKER”

(GPS: 44.353083, -85.535178)

Just West of this marker is the Village of Meauwataka which means “half-way” in Pottawatomi. It is said that early travelers stopped and camped on the shore of Meauwataka Lake as it was halfway between Lake Mitchell to the south and the old Indian village on the north bank of the Manistee River.

14. “INDIAN CROSSING MARKER SOUTH”

(GPS: 44.450786, -85.634356)

Reportedly, it took 700 pounds of dynamite to destroy an ancient footbridge called “Pony Jam”. The bridge was once used by Native Americans and their animals to safely cross the river.

16. “INDIAN CAMP MARKER”

(GPS: 44.469094, -85.652751)

Early historians counted over 150 ire rings near this location. While likely not all occupied at once, indications point to extensive use as a campsite for a long number of years.

33. “WEST BAY MARKER”

(GPS: 44.769444, -85.634796)

Our 55 mile long journey representing 2,600 years of trail users on the Cadillac Traverse City Old Indian Trail has come to an end.

What does it mean to you to travel along the trail? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, and share of photo of your journey on Instagram using #PureMichigan.