HISTORIC MICHIGAN: Native American Tree Markers
Ever been walking in the Michigan woods and come across a very strangely-bent tree? If so, there is a distinct possibility you've come across a genuine Native American trail marker.
These trees grew in shapes that were intended as directions to lakes, streams, villages, etc. The trees were strapped down until they began to permanently grow in the desired shape & direction.
According to The American Forests Website, “Native Americans would bend young trees to create permanent trail markers, designating safe paths through rough country and pointing travelers toward water, food or other important landmarks. Over the years, the trees have grown, keeping their original shape, but with their purpose all but forgotten as modern life sprang up around them.”
Now, this doesn't mean that ALL bent, weirdly-shaped trees are markers; some have been shaped by the elements and Mother Nature...in fact, you'd be extremely fortunate to even come across one...but the Native American markers DO exist and there ARE some in our Michigan forests.
One of the dead-giveaways that it's a true historic marker is the stub, or 'snub-nose'. The nose was made by making a hole in the trunk, inserting a little chunk of the tree, and letting the trunk grow around it...very ingenious. Strap marks are sometimes also visible (SEE PHOTOS BELOW).
I can't tell you exactly where to look, but if you happen to visit our national forests, or even the deep wilds of northern Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, i encourage you to keep a sharp eye out for one. Obviously, these trees would be up to 200 or more years old, so many are long gone and the ones that are left could very well die off this century.
Other states have these Native American markers as well (the photos below are of a bent-tree marker in Pennsylvania); the Mountain Stewards website can tell you more. If you decide an attempt to locate one here in our state, please take photos and share so I can post 'em. Good luck!