The “motorized route” section of this web-site applies to any motorized vehicle, but also bicycles and even walking, if one doesn’t object to walking along a roadway.

I personally prefer a motorcycle because it simulates the openness Daniel Boone must have experienced going down the trail on his horse. To comprehend how the route was chosen, it is important to understand the evolution of the roadways being used. Obviously at this point in history, it is necessary to use existing roadways, and these don’t necessarily superimpose exactly over the original path.

Boone Trace was the first, repeat FIRST, road ever opened into Kentucky for the purpose of bringing in people, i.e. settlers. Prior to 1775, there were only animal and Indian trails, no actual roads. There were plenty of these, and when navigating from one place to another, the trick was to pick the best set of trails to connect together to make the best route. Daniel Boone had a particular knack for this task, having what some feel was a photographic memory, never forgetting places and routes he had experienced before.

Therefore, the Trace began primarily as a buffalo trail following the course the big animal would take as it meandered through the countryside in search of food, generally adhering close to creeks and streams for water. Daniel Boone then established his road following which thousands of people crossed through the Wilderness in quest of their dream to move west and claim land. It was narrow, however, being essentially a dirt bridle path large enough only to accommodate horseback. With the increased traffic into Kentucky, the government realized that there was a need for a more substantial, permanent road suitable for wagons and contracted James Knox and Joseph Crockett in 1796 to head up this project. This road split away from Boone Trace at Old Hazel Patch (now Oakley, Kentucky) heading west toward Crab Orchard, Stanford, Danville and ultimately Louisville, known at that time as “The Falls of the Ohio.” This road then became known as the classical “Wilderness Road” over which most people journeyed, with Boone Trace becoming less travelled and diminishing to the point where now it almost has been forgotten. The evolution to modern roads developed more or less in the following order:

  • Buffalo/Indian trails
  • Boone Trace
  • Wilderness Road
  • State and country roads, initially corduroyed and macadamized until eventually paved
  • US 25 known as Dixie Highway extending from Michigan to Florida
  • Modern US 25 and 25E
  • I-75
  • Consequently, it can be surmised that I-75 actually evolved out of a buffalo trail!

We have attempted to backtrack to the oldest most primitive roads closest to The Trace using paved roads for almost the entirety. Except for a few select locations, the actual dirt Trace has ceased to exist from the effects of time and “progress.” However, the essential route of it has been established based on early surveys into Kentucky by Neal Hammon who mapped Boone Trace on USGS maps which have proved to be indispensable. It is still even possible, however, that the very early Trace prior to the surveys, which were done 5-10 years after 1775, might have taken a slightly or significantly different course due to the fluidity of nature. It is entirely possible that even Daniel Boone himself might have made some modifications or improvements to his initial route on his second time through, finding an easier way to go.

Consequently, the route selected was attained by using existing roads as close as possible to The Trace but also attempting to make the route as interesting and pleasant as possible. There will be times when the route taken will not be as close to The Trace as another alternative, but it was chosen to give the traveler more of “the feel” of The Trace and a better experience. In other words, there are alternatives, and we welcome suggestions to improve it. To see details of The Trace and recommended motorized route, see the map section of this web-site.

I dig riding a motorcycle, and it turns out that Boone Trace makes a phenomenal bike run, following the creeks and streams almost the entire way. I’ve learned the names of many of these (I’m still learning) and it has become very personal to me. I can sense the presence of Daniel Boone as he made his way through the Wilderness, often alone with just his horse, his knife and a single shot smooth bore rifle. No matter what mode of transportation is used, my wish is that others could also have this same type of experience.

 

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