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Historic and Natural Features

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Before European Settlement: The Indigenous Peoples, the Rouge River, and the Saginaw Trail
Rouge TrailLong before it was a museum in modern day Birmingham, the landscape in this part of what would become Birmingham had important features that made it valuable to the Indigenous Peoples who occupied the area around it since the ice age ended about 10,000 years ago. The site slopes 
rouge view
steeply down toward the Rouge River valley to the north and west. The Rouge River's volume is probably considerably less today than in the distant past, and it is unclear whether it was ever suitable for travel by canoe. But we know that the Indigenous Peoples of this area utilized various footpaths to and from the main Saginaw Trail (roughly Woodward Avenue) and to seasonal camps and other sites. The Rouge River valley would have provided wildfowl and game, fruit and nuts, and fish in abundance. To our knowledge, there was no permanent village here, although seasonal gatherings most certainly took place for trade and other cultural purposes.

The heavy usage of the trail system by Native Americans over many centuries accounts for a numberProjectile Points REV of archaeological finds in the Rouge River watershed. These sites are recorded by the State of Michigan but are not made public to protect them; however  the Birmingham Museum has projectile points (arrowheads) from a location just east of Woodward near Coolidge, and another from a site near Lincoln in Birmingham. They are on display in our lobby, so stop in to take a closer look!