Prehistoric Indians in this region lived a nomadic life, hunting and gathering their food. They created trails as they roamed. Sometime later, Quapaw Indians came into eastern Arkansas, followed by Osage Indians to the northwest. They traveled over prehistoric trails and made others as they hunted, moved their villages, and exchanged goods.
They used the rivers and creeks as their major highways. Their low-draft dugouts, called "pirogues" by the French, could float most of the streams of the Ozarks throughout the year.
On land, the major prehistoric trail in northern Arkansas was the path which ran from the mouth of the Missouri along the Ozarks escarpment to the Arkansas River, and on to the Red River. The trail was on high ground above the lowlands, which were flooded for a good part of the year, so the trail was always available.
Another known path ran from about the mouth of the St. Francis River due west to the mouth of the Little Red River. The trail connected the Mississippi and the St. Francis drainage to the inland waters of the White and the Little Red. It still existed and was used by Americans in the early 18th century.
By the 1820s other Native American tribes moved through the area, hunting and roaming over old trails and making new ones. Some of these tribes gathered from time to time at the mouth of the North Fork--Delawares, Kickapoos, Shawnees, Weas, Peorias, and Piankashaws. Cherokees had been awarded land in a treaty on the southwest side of the White River before that time. During the removal of Cherokees from the southeast, they traveled through this region over more than one trail.
Several of the Native American trails were later expanded and used by settlers.
(Sources: Indian Trails map by Sam Leath; Territorial Papers of the U.S. Vol XIX, 1819-1825; Dr. George Lankford)
Major Prehistoric Trail
This prehistoric trail became the basis for El Camino Real in Spanish times, which later became the Southwest Trail and the Old Military Road.
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