Hull's Trace

Youths kayaking at Hull\'s Trace
Students Kayaking at Hull's Trace on a Field Trip


Quick Facts
36595 W. Jefferson Ave, Brownstown Township, MI 48173
Corduroy Road remnant from 1812
Part of River Raisin NBP

Beach/Water Access, Benches/Seating, Boat Ramp, Canoe/Kayak/Small Boat Launch, Dock/Pier, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Parking - Boat Trailer, Parking - Bus/RV, Picnic Shelter/Pavilion, Picnic Table, Scenic View/Photo Spot

Realizing that Detroit and the Michigan Territory were isolated, in 1808 at the Treaty of Brownstown, Territorial Governor William Hull negotiated with the Wyandot for a road to connect Detroit to the Rapids of the Maumee River and to Upper Sandusky in Ohio. The Wyandot consented to allowing the new road to pass through their villages in anticipation of the United States agreeing that they could keep their villages forever. Two important Wyandot villages that were in the way of the proposed road included the Village of Brownstown, three miles north of the Huron River, and the village of Maguaga, seven miles further north of Brownstown. The Michigan Territorial government voted, in December of 1808, to authorize and finance the survey of the road through the Michigan Territory. The Survey was completed in January of 1809. The road was authorized by Congress but was never built. In the spring of 1812, with tensions mounting Governor Hull was appointed General of the newly formed Northwest Army of the United States. After a military briefing, Hull was ordered to prepare to invade Canada from Detroit as a part of a three-prong war plan. Knowing wars are won and lost on logistics, General Hull traveled to Ohio, where he met his newly recruited army and started his long march to Detroit from what is now Dayton, Ohio. Like the Michigan Territory, there was no adequate road across much of Ohio, so his troops built the road as they progressed. Simultaneously, General Hull ordered the Lacroix Company of the Michigan Militia to begin building the road along Lake Erie’s western shore in the early summer of 1812. While General Hull worked his way north building the road through Ohio’s Great Black Swamp, Captain Herbert Lacroix’s men were building the road following an ancient path or trace that travelled from Detroit south to the River Raisin. By the first of July, Lacroix’s Unit was at the Huron River. Working with nothing but the simplest of hand tools and without the benefit of many draft animals, the work had been difficult. Every wet or swampy area had to be corduroyed, a process of laying logs parallel to each other but perpendicular to the road edges. These logs then would be covered with dirt to fill the gaps to make the roadway smooth. Watercourses required bridges. Often it required corduroy on each side of the bridge resulting in hundreds of feet of logs. By July, Hull and his army had reached the Michigan Territory and learned that the U.S. had declared War on Great Britain. Using the road that Lacroix’s company had built, Hull’s army quickly reached the Huron River. The assistance of Hull’s army made a big difference in the progress of bridging the river. Once complete, a large Corduroy causeway was constructed and Hull’s army moved north rapidly completing the road into Detroit.

Today, remnants of those long-ago soldiers’ labor can be seen at Hull’s Trace, a unit of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Logs from the original road can be seen sticking out on the west side of West Jefferson Avenue into the waters that connect the Huron River with Silver Creek. All of the major battles in this theater of War were fought along Hull’s Military Road. The logs witnessed and carried thousands of great warriors, soldiers and dignitaries. The first surveyed road in Michigan, Hull’s Road, linked the fledgling Territory back to the rest of the United States. After the War of 1812, the road was used by early settlers flocking into Michigan as the floodgates to westward expansion opened. As more Europeans arrived, the same road witnessed the forced relocation and then removal of Native people. The Road later became part of the Dixie Highway system and was instrumental in carrying the migration of people seeking employment in the factories of Detroit. Many of these factories sprung up along Hull’s road, because the same logistics that once supported the war efforts were also vital to international trade and commerce. Today, the road is just about as it always has been. It is still possible to start in Detroit at Hart Plaza, close to where the Indian Council House used to stand, and drive south to see the logs that still testify to the history that shaped North American into what it is. It is the oldest interstate road in Michigan and passes some of the most historically significant locations in the state. From the battles of 1812, the first Bessemer steel mill in Michigan, ship yards that built the transportation systems that made the industrial growth possible and the road to the Arsenal of Democracy. For over two hundred years, the work of those intrepid men, with axes and not much more, has contributed to the fabric and culture of our communities and nation. After parking in the Hull’s Trace parking lot on the east side of West Jefferson Avenue, you will need to carefully cross to the west side of the road close to the Huron River Bridge. On the West side of the road is the Harbin Street Bridge. Standing on the Harbin Street Bridge look north along the water’s edge parallel to West Jefferson Ave. If the water levels are low enough, you will see a series of logs protruding out from the riverbank at a slightly upwards angle. There are actually two levels of logs that were placed as a part of building the military road. For year’s, the road bed has been modified and built up to what it is today, but many of the original logs that were placed there over 200 years ago amazingly still exist.

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Last updated: July 14, 2023