Life and Times of the Sangamon River

River valleys have a great many stories to tell. History is revealed in riverbanks all over the world. It is written in sediment, fossils, and artifacts. In some places, rivers expose ancient land and waterscapes created long before the river. Today, many rivers are refuges, tiny bits of what once was a far-reaching ecosystem. Life at the equator, colossal glaciers and the birth of rivers, megafauna, the arrival of people, earthquakes, a profound transformation of the landscape, but no dinosaurs, all these stories and more are told by the Sangamon River as it meanders its way across central Illinois. This video, History of the Sangamon River Valley by Michael Wiant, reveals some of the stories the Sangamon has to tell.

History of the Sangamon River Valley – HD from Treetop Productions on Vimeo.

What is the meaning of Sangamon?

In 1721, a small group of Frenchmen paddled canoes from the confluence of the Theakiki (Kankakee) and the “River of the Illinois (tribe)” to the Mississippi River. They were on their way to French settlements in Louisiana. Among the group was Pierre-Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest. Charlevoix documented the voyage in a series of letters that include descriptions of the landscape and Native American residents of the river valley. Continue reading “What is the meaning of Sangamon?”

Native American Trails

Shickshack Hill

Native Americans were the only human beings in Menard County for more than 10,000 years. Traces of their way of life in the form of stone tools and pottery sherds continue to be found throughout the county. Their legacy is also documented by trails—a path or track worn by the passages of persons traveling.

Identifying ancient Native American trails is difficult at best. Some Native American trail maps survive, such as the 1837 Ioway map, but they are extremely rare. Continue reading “Native American Trails”