In Akron's Cascade Valley Park is one of the greatest puzzles in the legend-haunted Cuyahoga River valley. This mighty oak has, since the early 1800s, been called the Indian Signal Tree. It is shaped like a candelabrum---or a three-pointed fork. The puzzle is, was it shaped by accident, by an act of God or by a human hand? This magnificent tree is more than 100 feet high and has an average spread of 75 feet. It is believed to be 250 to 300 years old. Most experts believe the oak was manipulated into this shape when it was small, by Indians who were known to do this to mark their trails.
Trees, such as this 300 year old, 100' tall Bur Oak, were often manipulated into unusual shapes by Native Americans as landmarks to identify important trails. The Signal Tree marked the northenmost point of the portage trail that connected the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas Rivers and still stands in the Casade Valley Metro Park.
Signal trees — sometimes called trail trees — are important historically and are interesting to look out for. To make them, Native Americans forced trees to grow in certain shapes so as to serve as signals marking trails, hunting grounds, hideouts, camping areas, shallow fords, tribal territories, sacred places, etc. They made them by bending a sapling and holding it by some means until the first curve was fixed by growth. So as to hasten the fixation, they tied the sapling in some manner with rawhide, sinew rope, or stout vines.
“What are trail trees and what do they look like? There are many different configurations, but probably the trail trees that are shaped alike also point to the same thing. Variations in shape depend on the type of tree used, the tribe bending them, the geographic area of the U.S., the age of the tree (styles varied over the hundreds of years that they were bent), what they point to, etc. Trail trees will be bent and will have some evidence of a ‘nose’ on the pointing end of the tree trunk. Sometimes, you can actually see the scars left by the tie-down sinews. Shorter trees are from the time period when Indians traveled by foot; the taller trees — known as horse-and-rider trees — are younger trees that were bent after the Indians began to use horses.
I have found some more info on those signal trees. "TRAIL SIGNAL TREES are extremely important historically. Native Americans made them by bending a sapling and holding it by some means until the first curve was fixed by growth. Apical dominance (a forester's term) or natural trend to grow upright would straighten the upper part. They probably tied it some way to hasten the fixation."
Sounds about right to me. This is very interesting to see how the Indian must have had patience to grow trees like that, since it takes a few years to grow a tree.
i've seen some trees of unusual shape, but i don't think any of them were actually signal/trail trees. in fact i didn't even know about signal/trail trees until just recently. i do find them very interesting though.