An extraordinary recreational opportunity is in store for the people of Missouri and visitors to the state.

A significant extension to Missouri’s hiking and biking trails will be built on the no-longer-used rail bed of the Rock Island Railroad.

Workers use heavy equipment to dismantle the railroad tracks on the Rock Island line. The machine specifically removes the bolts and plates that hold the rails together. (Photo courtesy of Chrysa Niewald)

Workers use heavy equipment to dismantle the railroad tracks on the Rock Island line. The machine specifically removes the bolts and plates that hold the rails together. (Photo courtesy of Chrysa Niewald)

Interconnecting with the existing Katy Trail, Missouri will then have over 450 miles of trail following unused railroad corridors. The new trail, which will be known as Rock Island State Park, will extend from Pleasant Hill in the western part of the state to Beaufort in eastern Missouri.

This news is particularly exciting because most states don’t have any cross-state trails and Missouri will have not one, but two such trails. The 240-mile-long Katy Trail extends from Machens to Clinton and is also operated by the Department of Natural Resources as part of the state park system. The two trails will intersect at Pleasant Hill.

The first section of the trail from Pleasant Hill to Windsor is slated to open later this year, culminating years of planning. Plans are underway to build the trail east from Windsor to Ionia, Cold Camp Station, Stover, Versailles, Barnett, Eldon, Etterville, Eugene, Henley, Meta, Argyle, Freeburg, Belle, Bland, Canaan, Owensville, Rosebud, Gerald, and Leslie, then on to Beaufort.

The completed Rock Island Trail, from Kansas City to Beaufort, will add 217 miles to the interconnected system.

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