ROCK ISLAND STATE TRAIL
Beauty and solitude, away from the hustle and bustle of city traffic, await visitors at Rock Island Trail State Park. Stretching for 26 miles from Alta, in Peoria County, to Toulon, in Stark County, the park offers many natural and architectural attractions in a tree-canopied corridor that is only 50 to 100 feet wide.
Prairie grass and wildflowers co-exist as remnants of early rail travel along the trail. Just north of Alta, an arched culvert provides a lovely backdrop for the natural beauty of the area. At the Peoria and Stark County line, a tall grass prairie remnant provides a step back into time and allows visitors to see the Illinois that the early settlers experienced. Just a few miles from the Toulon access area, a trestle bridge spans the Spoon River between Wyoming and Toulon. A few miles further south, the Wyoming Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Depot stands as a mute testimony to the hundreds of passengers that traveled along the railway just 100 years ago.
Rock Island Trail is in the Grand Prairie Division, a vast plain formerly covered with tall prairie grass. As the trail has reverted to nature, much of the prairie has returned.
North of Princeville lies a dedicated Class B Nature Preserve with abundant native grasses and flowering perennials. Fourteen acres have been restored to native prairie at the Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area. Hardwood trees and wildflowers can be found along the streams and rivers which cross the trail.
The Peoria and Rock Island Railroad Company was granted a charter to construct a railroad between Peoria and Rock Island on March 7, 1867. Construction began two years later, and the first regularly scheduled passenger train passed over the Rock Island Line July 8, 1871.
For more than 40 years, passenger and freight trains rumbled through the small towns of Alta, Dunlap, Princeville, Stark, Wyoming and Toulon. By 1915, however, rail traffic through these communities began to decline, and ceased completely by the late 1950's.
Peoria's Forest Park Foundation acquired the abandoned railway corridor in June, 1965, and deeded the property to the Department of Conservation four years later. Officially dedicated in 1989, the Rock Island Trail is the first railway conversion completed by the department.
The Class D (primitive) camping area is located between Alta and Dunlap in the Kickapoo Creek Recreation Area and is accessible by trail only. Facilities include pit toilets, fire pads, picnic tables, picnic shelter and water. There is a self-pay camping station located off of Fox Road at the overnight parking lot.