History Along the Trail
The natural resources of this area provided prehistoric peoples, Native Americans, and early non-native immigrants with the materials they needed to survive.
This rich environment allowed local populations to settle, grow, and develop new technologies, leading to the 1869 construction of the Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Western Railway. This railway would eventually serve as the base of the Kickapoo Rail Trail,
Today, the Kickapoo Rail Trail allows visitors to travel in the footsteps of Native Americans, early settlers, and even the young attorney Abraham Lincoln, who rode a nearby route on horseback as part of the 8th Judicial Circuit.
Look for signs along the trail that point out historical features like Full's Siding and other points of interest,
Nature Along the Trail
The Kickapoo Rail Trail traverses some of the most diverse ecosystems in this part of the state, including woodland, prairie, rivers, and wetlands.
Along the trail you may see or hear wildlife, including bald eagles, monarch butterflies, frogs and toads, fish in the rivers, many types of birds, and more. Plants growing along the trail include spring wildflowers and unique prairie plants such as compass plant and big bluestem.
The west half of the Kickapoo Rail Trail runs through what was once a vast expanse of prairie, covered in flowers and grasses that grew over 10 feet tall as far as the eye could see.
Scattered groves of oak trees dotted the landscape, while fire-sensitive trees grew along rivers in areas called 'timbers', where they were better protected from the fires that moved across the prairie.
Herds of bison and elk, as well as other creatures, fed among the prairie plants and found shelter in the timbers and groves.
Called the Grand Prairie, this vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem was unique in North America. It covered one-third of Illinois and was once one of its most remarkable features.
Today, the prairie's rich soil forms the basis of thriving agriculture in our region. Here we have some of the richest, deepest soil in the world!
The east part of the Rail Trail runs through the deciduous forest ecosystem of far eastern Illinois. This area was the transition zone from the tallgrass prairie to the west, and the vast forest that once covered the eastern part of the United States.
Rivers and Wetlands
Once complete, the Kickapoo Rail Trail will cross three waterways: the Salt Fork River, Stoney Creek, and the Middle Fork River. It will also pass by multiple wetland areas.
For the last fifty years or so these waters have been recovering ecologically. And recent conservation efforts have improved environmental conditions for wildlife and humans alike.
People kayak and canoe on the rivers, and fisherman catch smallmouth bass and other fish.
Bald eagles nest in large trees, and kingfishers, herons, and spotted sandpipers have been spied at the water’s edge.
River otters were reintroduced in Illinois in the mid 1990s and have made a great recovery. If you're lucky, you will see them along the riverbanks.