History: Yellowstone Trail
Contact:  Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

(Not sure of what paper this comes from, but may be The Thorp Courier, and the writer is Brian Wilson.)

The Yellowstone Trail a historical highway

Back before superhighways whizzed people from coast to coast, there was only the slow meandering course of the Yellowstone Trail.

In the infancy of the automobile, when a 10-mile trek was a major feat, the Yellowstone Trail guided tourists and travelers from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound.

Part of that early network of roads went through the towns of Withee and Thorp in northern Clark County.

With the advent of the interstate highway system, the Yellowstone Trail fell into disuse and lay forgotten. The only remnants of the trail are faded yellow road markers with their arrows pointing west and old street names.

The Yellowstone Trail was forgotten by many but Arnoldine Gulcynski of Thorp hopes to change that.

Gulcynski is the president of the Thorp Historical Society and has always been curious about the past.

"I first remember being interested in the Yellowstone Trail when I was a young girl," she said. "My father loved to go on Sunday drives and would point out the yellow bands around the telegraph poles that marked the trail."

Recently, Gulcynski has led a movement to retrace the old trail and mark it as it once was.

She hopes travelers, tired of four-lane highways, will once again take to the back roads and explore America’s heartland.

She and others like her have traced the trail from Appleton to Stevens Point and through Marshfield’s Yellowstone Drive, but there are gaps in their knowledge of the trail.

The original directions for the trail did not include road signs, she said. People followed the trail by markers and by following the mileage guides that showed distances between such landmarks as garages and churches.

An organization was formed in the 1920s to mark the trail and to publicize it. This organization sold franchise rights to businesses so they could use the Yellowstone name. The towns that the road went through were responsible for the upkeep of the road. Often, however, the roads were very poor.

According to an old brochure, the section that is now Country Trunk X between Withee and Thorp was one of the worst stretches of the road.

Gulcynski says that section of road was actually made out of sheets of corduroy because the ground was too marshy for a dirt road.

Tracing the path of the trail proves to be difficult because many new roads have been laid through the area.

"In many cases we can follow the trail to where it enters a town but cannot find the exact route through the town that it followed," she said.

The Yellowstone Trail started, according to Gulcynski, as a dream of a few businessmen who hoped to provide easy access for travelers to places in the Midwest and west.

People could stop along the way and see many interesting glimpses of American life.

Much of the charm of the original trail is still around. The old trail runs through small communities where the past does not seem so far removed from the present.

Along the trail are places such as Tony’s Filling Station in Thorp where the legendary gangster Al Capone is said to have frequented. Also along the trail are, (words missing here)…..trail’s heyday as advertisements for beer.

The Yellowstone Trail, as it winds its way through the rolling lands of Wisconsin, is as much a trip back in time to an earlier period of American life as it is a trip from east to west.

In the photo below, Arnoldine Gulcynski stands in front of the Heritage Hotel located on County Trunk X in Thorp. The historic hotel is on the old route of the Yellowstone Trail. Gulcynski hopes tourism will increase when the trail is more widely known.



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