About the Mohawk Trail
The Highway of History: CELEBRATING DECADES OF MOTORCAR TRAVEL
by Laurene L. York, Mohawk Trading Post
Blaze the Highway of History and discover the wonderful world of adventure waiting for you in the four season vacation land along the Mohawk Trail.
Stretching from the Massachusetts-New York line to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River, is the actual 63 mile East-West highway. Reminiscent of early American life, the Mohawk Trail provides the traveler of today with well over 100 attractions; country inns, gift shops and public and private camping areas nestled amid the seasonal changing beauty of the Berkshire Hills and Connecticut Valley.
Across the Deerfield River is a five arch concrete span called the Bridge of Flowers. This deserted trolley bridge, presently displaying a profusion of flowers and shrubs, was a project sponsored by the Shelburne Falls Women's Club in 1929. The Bridge of Flowers is the only one of its kind and a delight to the traveler's eye. Just to the south of Greenfield is Old Deerfield with its Indian and Revolutionary monuments. Many of Old Deerfield's pre-revolutionary houses are open to the public, along with its museum.
Just downstream from the Bridge of Flowers is Salmon Falls. The river bottom is now nearly dry and has the largest selection of glacial potholes in the country. These ancient potholes, predating the Indians by thousands of years, came into existence by attacking whirlpools of water and gyrating stones of the Glacial Age that eroded the granite.
There are other phenomena and places of beauty along the Trail. New England's only Natural Bridge, in North Adams, has unusual geological formations like a marble 60 ft. falls, attesting to the thousands of years of erosion since the ice ages.
The world famous Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute offers the enjoyment of fine arts in Williamstown, while North Adams features the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, located in the North Adams freight yard district. Exhibits focus on the rich railroad and industrial heritage of North Adams. Located in the Berkshires with portals at Rowe and North Adams is the Hoosac Railroad Tunnel, built in the 19th century at a cost of 200 lives and $15 million, which earned it the name of the "Bloody Pit". The constant danger of tunneling through 5 miles of solid rock was completed with the help of a new explosive called "nitroglycerin". The tunnel is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of those lost in its completion.
The Mohawk Trail is an adventure and cultural experience for the lucky traveler who attends the Mohawk Trail concerts, an informal gathering of outstanding artists from near and far, or the summer theaters in Williamstown or Greenfield. Others can attend the many craft shows, street fairs or an Indian Pow Wow, a weekend outing filled with traditional songs and dances within a program of exhibitions displaying the rich heritage of the Indian culture.
Winter in the "beautiful Berkshire Hills" offers the best in downhill and cross country skiing, snowmobiling and full facility campgrounds and lodging anywhere in New England.
In any of the four seasons, the vacationing shopper can visit a host of country stores and unique gift shops along the trail.
View the valley from Mount Greylock (May-Oct.) the highest mountain in Massachusetts, which dominates the landscape with an elevation of 3,491 feet above sea level.
These are a few of the many attractions for the travelers who choose to follow the historic path of the Mohawk Trail.
The Mohawk Trail: "THE INDIAN PATH"
One of the oldest designated tourist and scenic routes in the country, the Mohawk Trail traces its roots to the post glacial age. While the peoples of the northeast had neither the wheel nor the horse, they created many footpath trade and travel routes throughout New England. One of the most heavily traveled - and one of the most famous today - was the path we call the Mohawk Trail.
During historic times, the Mohawk Trail evolved with the mode of transportation, advancing from foot travel to the automobile. The early European settlers used the Indian Path to travel between the English settlements of Boston and Deerfield, and the Dutch settlements in New York. The white settlers and traders brought with them the horse and the wheel, which required the widening and slight relocation of the original path.
Over the course of the centuries, the native population had reached agreements on territorial matters of hunting and fishing. The Pocumtuck, of the Massachusetts portion of the Connecticut River Valley, shared salmon fishing spots with the Mohawk of New York on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. The most notable of those fishing sites were turners Falls on the Connecticut and Shelburne Falls on the Deerfield.
Their population considerably reduced by disease from early contact with European explorers, the native people were not able to effectively protect their homelands. With English intervention from their settlement in the lower Connecticut River Valley and the Dutch in the lower valley of the Hudson River in New York, Political unrest was established between the agricultural Pocumtuck and the expansionist Mohawk. The Europeans wanted the Indian lands, and pitting one tribe against the other seemed a good way to accomplish their goal.
The English and Dutch arranged a "peace" conference between the two tribes. However, a Mohawk of high tribal standing was killed and the Pocumtuck people were blamed. The furious Mohawk sent their warriors quickly over the Indian Trail and annihilated the Pocumtuck settlements. The English now had no resistance to their advancement up the Connecticut River. Moreover, the Dutch took the opportunity of the Mohawk's diverted attention to pursue their interests farther up the Hudson River. With place names, then as now, the recognition goes to the victor..."The Mohawk Trail".
During the Colonial period many notable personages traveled "The Trail". Metacomet, called King Philip by the English, traveled "The Trail" about 1676 in an unsuccessful effort to recruit the Mohawk. King Philip's War also proved unsuccessful in stopping the European invasion.
Nearly 100 years later, Benedict Arnold, still an American patriot, traveled the Mohawk Trail to Fort Ticonderoga, New York. Starting in Boston, he recruited additional troops in Deerfield and headed to the English held fort. He captured their cannon and returned with the artillery to Boston via the Indian Path. For whose who wish, part of the original footpath can be hiked today in the Mohawk Trail State Forest.
With the Indian Wars over, the white settlements concentrated on more trade with each other. North Adams became a booming industrial town and the old trade route between Boston and Western Massachusetts became more vital. Widened and graded, the old trail became a road to better support the increasingly heavy traffic. In 1914, the road was improved again and in October of that year, the Mohawk Trail was designated a scenic tourist route by the Massachusetts legislature. Since then the reputation of the Mohawk Trail as a scenic route has continued to grow over the years. The National Geographic Traveler selected the Mohawk Trail as one of 50 such scenic routes in the United States. The American Automobile Association also chose "The Trail" for scenic recognition, as has the federal government in one of its national programs.
The Mohawk Trail has gained a world wide reputation for its scenic beauty, both natural and man-made. It carries on its ancient trade route heritage via the many unique shops, inns and villages that line its path. The Mohawk Trail truly is a "highway of history."