Nestled in northwestern Minnesota lies a trail haunted by its history and a few ghosts too.
The town of Thief River Falls finds its origins in a Native American conflict along the shores of Red Lake River and Thief River. There was a time when a tribe of Dakota secretly inhabited a section of the beach even though the Ojibwe had claimed the area. When they found out, the Ojibwe forced the Dakota out, and the land was known as Gimood-akiwi ziibi (Stolen-land River). Over the years, the name stuck and turned into what it is today: Thief River.
Today, Dead Man’s Trail is still an unpaved road. Some believe it was used by the local Native American tribe… and others with not the best intentions.
One legend tells of a man wanted for murder. Using the isolated path as a means to escape the authorities, he fled down the road and hid in a cave along the river. The cave is no longer there, but many report seeing his spirit still running down the road.
A far more tragic tale is that of a young woman who was trying to escape from people chasing her. Slowed down by her infant, she hid the baby along the river and kept running. When she returned to the spot where she had hidden the child, she found that the river had washed them away. Hikers report seeing her still searching for her baby, and if you listen carefully, you can hear her crying.
You can access the hiking trail near Greenwood Trails Recreation Center and the Thief River Falls Cemetery. There are both paved and unpaved trails… you’ll want to follow the unpaved one as that is Dead Man’s Trail.
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