Walk the rails across central Illinois on the Kickapoo Rail Trail

Destination Illinois

ST. JOSEPH, Ill. (WTVO) — There is a trend occurring all over the country: converting old and unused railroad tracks into walking paths for hiking and biking, called Rail Trails.

Rail Trails have popped up all across the state, including here in the Stateline, but the newest one is the Kickapoo Rail Trail in central Illinois.

The Kickapoo Rail Trail is a work in progress, named after the Kickapoo State Park near Danville. The crushed limestone trail will total 24.5 miles when finished, and will connect Urbana to the Vermilion County Fairgrounds in Danville, going between Champaign and Vermilion counties.

The trails lies on a former CSX Rail Line.

As of right now, the Kickapoo Rail Trail spans from Urbana to St. Joe, which is 6.7 miles.

The first phase of the project was completed in August 2017. An additional 2 miles will be completed this October.

“There’s lots of different wildlife habitats happening there, so birders can come out and see different varieties of birds,” said Lisa Sprinkle, Marketing Coordinator for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. “You can listen to the frogs in the Spring or in the Fall. There’s just a lot to experience while you’re out on the Kickapoo Rail Trail.”

In addition to offering exercise and a chance to enjoy the scenery, the trail also serves as an economic driver to the small communities it connects.

“I hope what’s happened here in St. Joe is what’s going to happen in Oakwood and communities along the Kickapoo Rail Trail,” said Lara Darling, Education Supervisor for the Vermilion County Conservation District. “Businesses and tourism, and people coming to dine in the community and visit the communities.”

Whether on foot or on two wheels, the Kickapoo Rail Trail offers views of the prairie and local rivers, including a Salt Fork Bridge in St. Joseph and a 100 foot tall trestle bridge spanning the Middle Fork River.

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