Long before any white settlers arrived
in North America, Native Americans had carved a considerable
network of footpaths across the continent. Many of the
roads and highways of today owe their existence to these
earlier trails. These American footpaths are often based
on game trails, most notably from the vast herds of
One of the characteristics of Native
American footpaths is that they tended to follow heavily
wooded lands. The vegetation provided them with cover
from other tribes, some of who might be hostile.
War paths, on the other hand, followed
higher elevations and mountain ridges. The additional
elevation provided better observation vantage points.
Map of Native American footpaths.
Most Native American paths were used
for hunting, commerce and communication. The engineering
of these paths was incredibly sophisticated - paths
were often direct, consisted of level footing and for
the most part avoided wet, swampy bottom lands. Moreover,
the paths were often found on the far side of hills
and mountains, thus avoiding the brunt of bad weather.
Route 40 owes its existence to many
Native American paths including Nemacolin's Path from
Cumberland to Brownsville, and the Mingo Path between
Brownsville and Wheeling. West of the Missouri River,
great sections of Route 40 closely parallel centuries-old