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 on 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, rail traffic through these communities began to decline, and ceased completely by the late 1950s.
Peoria's Forest Park Foundation acquired the abandoned railway corridor in June1965 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.
Rock Island Trail is in the Grand Prairie Division, a vast plain formerly covered with tall prairie grasses. As the trail has reverted to nature, much of the prairie has returned.
North of Princeville lies a dedicated Class B Illinois 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.
Improved access points to Rock Island Trail are at Alta, Wyoming and Toulon. Hikers, bikers and skiers will enjoy more than 26 miles of uninterrupted nature. Parking, water and pit toilets are located at access areas. Parking-only facilities are located at Dunlap (on Parks School Road) and Peoria/Stark County line (North Cedar Bluff Road, 00N). Where the trail intersects the small towns along its route of city streets and sidewalks, directional signs are utilized.
The park office is in the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Depot located in Wyoming. The depot serves as a visitor center/railroad museum and is a mute testimony to the hundreds of passengers who traveled along the railway just 100 years ago. Since the depot is open as staffing is available, phone (309) 695-2228 if planning a visit.
Only non-motorized traffic is allowed on the trail, and equestrian use is not permitted.