Black Hawk Trail
*** Notice - the Black Hawk Trail is closed until further notice ***
- Location - hike both starts and ends at Camp Lowden
- Trail length - 18 miles round trip
- Trail difficulty - pretty easy to light moderate. Mostly flat land.
- Day hike or backpacking experience - plan for the hike to take the entire day. Best to
start in the morning and pack a lunch to eat at the Black Hawk Statue (halfway point).
- Trail medals and patches - available for sale upon completion of the hike
The Black Hawk Trail Hike is an 18-mile round trip hike from Camp Lowden to Lorado Taftís "Black Hawk Statue" in
The hike both starts and ends at Camp Lowden. The trail between Camp Lowden and Daysville crosses land that belongs to
the family of former Illinois Governor Lowden. It is alleged that the trail was walked by members of the Stillman campaign
during the Black Hawk War, by Sauk and Fox Indians, and even by Abraham Lincoln. As many as 300 Scouts in one day have
taken the trail.
According to former camp director
Dwaine Murphy (the first Camp Lowden director, from 1940-1941) was always looking at Black Hawk Statue, and set up the trail hike.
He went to the library and found a book that each hiker had to read and then write a report. He walked the original trail,
got permissions from landowners, etc. He personally set up the rules for the hike. It was to be a buddy hike, and could
not have more than two at a time. Pairs were sent out 20 minutes apart. When each pair arrived at the statue, one Scout
went up to the statue and looked at the river for 20 minutes, then they switched. Hikers were also to report on any littering,
etc. Mr. Schenk states that the trail hike started in 1940 or 1941, as it was already in operation in 1942.
Bill Peterson was at Camp Lowden in 1941-1942 and was one of the first to hike the Black Hawk Trail.
The trail was very popular and troops came from near and far to hike it. The beginning of the trail was at the southwest corner
of the parking lot, down Backbone Ridge (one of the trails that leads to the waterfront), and then north along the river through
Daysville, and then on to the Black Hawk Statue.
states that the original philosophy was to jog for 40 paces, walk for 40 paces, etc. Once you reached the statue, you had to
take a compass reading and there was a symbol at the base of a tree. This was to prove that you were there. The medals and patches
were highly sought after. The first medal had the American Legion emblem (rather than the fleur-de-lis) because the Legion gave
them out. The next medals were a heavy lead back with a bronze face, the lead being engraved with the hikerís name and date.
Ray recalls that when the river was more navigable, owners were not allowed to fence down to the water and they had to stay 10 to 15
feet from the waterís edge. In later years the owners were given the right to fence off to the water line, which also blocked part
of the Black Hawk Trail. Therefore the original trail was redesigned, and once you got to the railroad tracks you had to go up to
the blacktop and take the blacktop into Oregon. The trail became more of a blacktop route than actually enjoying Mother Nature.
recalls that the drug store in Oregon used to have
picture cards of the Black Hawk Statue
that showed Lowden staff members in the
foreground. The photo was taken in 1954 by a company that was doing postcards of things around Oregon.
Pictured (l-r) were Ed McKeown, Wayne Torgeson (in shorts sort of in the front), and an unknown Explorer (Ken thinks it might be Tom Skibba,
who was on the staff in 1952 and 1953). On the right: Ted Kjellstrom and Ken Merwin.
In later years the trail became in disrepair, had high weeds, poison ivy, etc., and the trail became impassable. The landowners
blamed Scouts for vandalism, but that could have occurred along the river from just about anybody.
In the late 1970s an ad was placed in the council newsletter for help in rehabbing the trail. More than 85 Scouts and leaders
showed up to help. Under the guidance of
the volunteers marked it, built a 30-foot bridge, cut weeds, removed downed trees, and basically put the Black Hawk Trail back into
service. The trail reopened as of October 1, 1979.
However, due to issues regarding property boundaries, routing of the trail, and upkeep, the Black Hawk Trail was closed indefinitely in 2004.