James Baughn was the webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers for 20 years. On the side, he maintained even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix. Baughn passed away in 2020 while doing one of the things he loved most: hiking in Southeast Missouri. Here is an archive of his writing about hiking and nature in our area.
Brief guide to rails-to-trails projects in Missouri and Illinois
Posted Friday, August 1, 2008, at 3:18 PM
My earlier suggestion to convert the old Iron Mountain railroad tracks into a hiking/biking trail generated several positive comments, both on and off the blog.
So where to begin? The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has a very nice brochure (PDF) that outlines the process of building a trail. It's not easy, but it certainly can be done.
Southeast Missouri doesn't have any rails-to-trails projects, but successful trails have been built not too far away:
Tunnel Hill Trail
The tracks of the Big Four Railroad between Harrisburg and Karnak, Illinois, were converted into a 45+ mile trail. The most popular parts of this trail include the 543-foot long tunnel at Tunnel Hill:
...and the massive Breeden Trestle located between Tunnel Hill and Vienna:
Not all rails-trails need to cover huge distances. The Quetil Trail at Alto Pass, Illinois, is very short, but very scenic. Starting in town, the trail follows the path of the narrow-gauge Cairo & St. Louis Railroad along the bottom of a long bluff, featuring interesting rock formatations.
Arguably the country's most successful rail-trail project, the Katy Trail spans 225 miles (with more coming) across Missouri. It's got everything: river views, bridges, a tunnel, Lewis & Clark campsites, tall bluffs, and quaint towns.
Frisco Highline Trail
The Katy Trail does have some stiff competition from a more recent project, the 36-mile Frisco Highline trail between Springfield and Bolivar in Southwest Missouri. The backers of this trail came up with a clever fundraising strategy: finding official sponsors for each of the line's many bridges and trestles.
Indian Ford Road
Southeast Missouri doesn't have any rail-to-trails, but we do have a nice example of a rail-to-road conversion. Southwest of Puxico in Stoddard and Butler counties, a portion of the old Frisco tracks were turned into a gravel county road. This road is extremely flat and straight (with only one gentle curve) and takes advantage of three railroad bridges that now carry highway traffic. The largest crosses St. Francis River at Indian Ford:
- The Pavement Ends guide to the Ozark Riverways (8/19/20)
- Maintz sunflowers back for 2020 (7/27/20)
- Massive sinkhole opens in Reynolds County along the Trail of Tears (6/3/20)1
- Hike from 0 to 12 miles on the Audubon Trail (5/14/20)
- Scenes from Pinecrest Azalea Garden (4/19/20)
- Ideas for getting away from it all (3/27/20)1
- Jean Dale: Cape Girardeau baseball sensation (with an asterisk) (2/10/20)
Respond to this blog
Posting a comment requires a subscription.