Rock Island Trail

Place Category: Commerce & Recreation, Ecology, Nature & Outdoor Recreation, Birding, and Nature Sites

  • Profile

    Soon to be linked into Downtown Peoria, this hiking/biking rails-to-trails park offers a leisurely day of birding through a surprising array of habitats, from mature forest to secondary scrub, restored prairie and riparian wetlands. Established in 1871 the Rock Island Railroad busily carried freight and passengers between Peoria and Rock Island for over 40 years. By 1915, however, rail volume declined and ceased altogether by the mid-twentieth century. Peorias Forest Park Foundation acquired the abandoned railway in 1965 and deeded it over to the state. Since that time, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has converted a 26-mile segment between Alta and Toulon into a hiking/biking/nature trail system, dedicating it as a state park in 1989. Running through a mosaic of regenerated forest and tallgrass prairie habitats, the trail offers improved access at its southern terminus in Alta, at the Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area (just north of Alta), at the Williams Street Depot Museum in Wyoming (where the park office is located), and at the trail head in Toulon. Parking-only access is also offered at Dunlap and off of Cedar Bluff Road at the Peoria/Stark county line. As you travel the trail, be sure to wander off into some of the side trails overlooking prairies, Kickapoo Creek, wetlands, and the thicker forest; this is where you will find the greatest diversity of birds.

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