|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Natural salt licks in what is now northern Kentucky in current Bone Lick State Park drew buffalo from the regions now known as the states of Indiana and Illinois. These buffalo migrated by the thousands over hundreds of years over the same route, forming a wide pathway that the early colonists called the Buffalo Trace.
Salt licks are places on the earth's surface where naturally occurring salts and mineral become exposed. Animals need these salts and come to them to lick the deposits. There are many mineral licks located across the Midwest, but the best ones were in Kentucky at Big Bone Lick State Park.
Big Bone Lick State Park
Located in northern Kentucky, Big Bone Lick State Park is a natural destination for those seeking to understand the bison that migrated across Indiana and Illinois to lick the mineral deposits exposed in the swampy ground at the park. The licks have existed for millennia, attracting the giant mammoths and other mammals that inhabited North America during the Ice Age. As these animals became extinct, the smaller animals came. Bison, deer and other animals went there in large numbers to lick the minerals from the ground. For more information, contact:
Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
3380 Beaver Road
Union, KY 41091
The Buffalo Trace
The Buffalo Trace began in the prairies of Illinois as the herds of buffalo headed east toward the licks. It crossed the Wabash River near the site of Vincennes, Indiana, providing the French with an ideal spot to establish the trading post that became the city. It crossed southern Indiana, nearing the Ohio River at its shallowest point, the Falls of the Ohio. After crossing the river, the bison traveled across northern Kentucky until they reached the area of the licks. In places, the Trace was up to twenty feet wide. Amerindians used the trace to both hunt the bison and travel cross-country. Since it connected the Ohio, Wabash and Mississippi Rivers the trace provided a highway for the white settlers that wished to go west. Today portions of U. S. 150 follow the Trace, which is now part of the National Scenic Byways Program.
The Postal Route
United States Postmaster General Joseph Habersham established a postal route over the Trace on March 22, 1800. Mail carriers would carry mail over the route every four weeks in the beginning. This was the first Western mail route in the fledgling nation. Two men carried the mail on foot over the 130 mile route.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning