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Buffalo Trails

BUFFALO TRAILS

BUFFALO TRAILS. The first thoroughfares of North America were the traces made by buffalo and deer in seasonal migration as they searched for feeding grounds and salt licks. Before hunting reduced their populations, as many as 50 million buffalo roamed the Great Plains in sprawling herds. Many early migration routes were initially hammered by the hooves of countless buffalo that instinctively followed watersheds and the crests of ridges to avoid summer muck and winter snowdrifts. Buffalo also helped to define the geography of the midwestern grasslands by forging large areas of short-clipped grass that kept forests from growing and provided homes for prairie dogs and other plains wildlife.

Indians followed buffalo trails as courses to hunting grounds and as warriors' paths. Hunters, and later settlers, followed these trails over the southern Appalachian Mountains in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They provided easier passage and led the way to salt springs. Traders used these trails in the nineteenth century to cross the plains, and settlers followed them south along the Mississippi River to the Southeast and to Texas. Buffalo traces characteristically ran north and south, as does the famous Natchez Trace. A few east-west trails proved to be vital routes, such as those through the Cumberland Gap, along the New York watershed, through the Allegheny divide to the Ohio headwaters, and through the Blue Ridge Mountains. These trails helped to define the routes of American settlement and commerce.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Belue, Ted Franklin. The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1996.

Isenberg, Andrew C. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environ-mental History, 1750–1920. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

E. DouglasBranch/h. s.

See alsoBuffalo (Bison) ; Prairie ; Roads ; Salt .

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Appalachian Trail

APPALACHIAN TRAIL

APPALACHIAN TRAIL, a footpath from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Kathadin in northern Maine. It was conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye as "a project in regional planning" and completed in 1937 by the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail Conference. The National Trails System Act (1968) furthered efforts to protect the narrow and largely private corridor. By 2002, federal and state governments guaranteed public access to all but a hundred miles of the 2,168-mile trail. Although some "through hikers" attempt the entire distance in a season, the trail is mostly encountered in short segments accessible to much of the eastern population.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Appalachian Trail Conference. Home page at http://www.appalachiantrail.org.

Emblidge, David, ed. The Appalachian Trail Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Marshall, Ian. Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

JohnFitzpatrick

See alsoNational Park System .

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Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: see National Parks and Monuments (table).

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