The Salt Flats History Trail
There was a time in Saline when Mammoths, Sabertooth Tigers and Paleo Man co-existed around natural salt springs located near the present day DNR Fisheries just off Saline Milan road 1/2 mile south of town. Salt deep in the earth from an ancient sea was carried to the surface by ground water, forming salt flats across the land.
These springs and flats attracted animals like Mastodons, Muskox and Bison who made their way to the rich salt springs to add minerals to their diet. This concentration of game provided excellent hunting for the people living there. Their culture flourished long before the arrival of the Pottawatomie, French Explorers and European Settlers.
Paleo Indians inhabited this area after the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago. They hunted, farmed, raised families and built burial mounds here because the salt springs were here. The Pottawatomie came to the springs around 500 years ago and traded salt with neighboring tribes. Later came the French in 1634 and named the area Saline. Troops during the war of 1812 were stationed here. A flower mill, salt mine and even a horse race tack were all located in the salt springs area. Most of the salt springs land has since been developed with homes and the DNR Fish Ponds. But a small 15 acre city owned parcel still remains undeveloped.
The Saline City Council has unanimously voted to authorize the Saline Parks Commission to pursue a new nature walking trail based on Saline's historic salt springs. This effort will be all volunteer with no cost to the city. The trail study will focus on the unused city owned flood plane that's part of the Saline river valley system. The "Salt Flats History Trail" should be a most worthwhile effort of depicting not only the early and prehistoric history of Saline, but the imparting the environmental education of a unique natural feature not found anywhere within a large sounding area. The project has won the support of the Parks Commission, the Saline Area Historic Society, the Saline Historic District and the Saline River Greenway Alliance.
Points of interest in and around the Saline Salt Springs History Trail
Salt weep flats. (Example) Salt brine from an ancient sea bed formed 600 million ago is forced up to the earths surface by ground water pressure to form salt flats.
Ice Age Animals 12,000 years ago came for the salt and minerals. •Mammoth • Musk Oxen • Saber Tooth Tigers
Paleo Indians Late Pleistocene period. 1,300 AD Built burial mounds near the salt flats area.
Pottawatomie Indians 1 ,500 AD migrate to Michigan. Hunted game attracted to the salt flats. They also traded salt with neighboring tribes along the "Six Trails"
French Traders 1634 First Europeans to discover the salt flats .
Robert de La Salle French Missionary 1680. Traveled through the area.
War of 1812 William Harrison who became 9th president of the US was a General in the American Military. He had troops stationed at the salt flats to guard against Indian raids in the war of 1812
Joseph Francis 1819 Surveyor working in Michigan before Orange Risdon documented the salt flats.
Early English Speaking Settlers 1824 First settled in and around the salt flats area before Saline's present location on US 12 .
Orange Risdon 1824 Survey US 12. Parched land in the Saline river valley and founded the permanent village in 1832. Naming it Saline after the river so named for the salt flats area.
York Grist Mill 1832 Isaac Jewett built the York Mill located by today's DNR fish ponds. It produce flower from grain and lasted until the late 1940's.
Early Salt Mine 1863 Speculators hoped to mine salt by by means of wells in the salt flats area. The venture was never went. commercial.
Horse Race track 1893 The Saline Driving Association operated a 1 I 2 mile track just south of town. Most likely where the DNR fish ponds are today.