Long Prairie Trail
A Little Known Treasure – The Long Prairie Trail
The Long Prairie Trail runs from near Rockton, Illinois in Winnebago county through Boone County and ends at the McHenry County Line. To access the trail, parking lots are provided in Caledonia, Poplar Grove and Capron, IL, as well at it’s terminal at the Boone County/McHenry County line. The LPT travels through some of the most rural areas in Boone County. Views from the trail are dominated by rolling fields, scattered farms, and an occasional woodland. The 14.2-mile asphalt trail provides a safe opportunity for family biking with very few rural crossroads. It contains several interpretive signs that explain the history of the area as well as specifics about the rail line that once rolled along the same path.
The trail is within an easy 30 – 40 minute drive from Janesville and is one that the whole family can enjoy. Our 6-year old found the trail tiring, but do-able several times last year! We usually pick up the trail at the parking lot in Caledonia, IL. (See 'How to Get There' below). From here eastward the trail is mostly paved and proceeds through the villages of Poplar Grove, IL and Capron, IL. The trail actually goes northwestward towards Rockton as well, but once it hits the Winnebago County Line – no paving. Guess someone didn’t have enough funds! If you take the kids, make sure to drive back into Rockford and enjoy one of the Beef-A-Roo’s there, a family favorite! Our kids claim the cheese fries are the best way to help them gain their energy back! One of their restaurants is located near Alpine Rd. & I-73, and another on Riverside Drive. (If you get to Riverside Drive, you’ll be able to get access to I-90 there as well.)
How to Get There
Take I-90 approx. 18 miles to Exit 3 (Rockton Rd.) in Illinois. Go 1.2 miles; turn left (south) onto 51. Head south on 51 for 6-1/2 miles to 173. Turn left (east) onto 173, and go 7.3 miles to Caledonia. There you’ll see a group of large silos under which is parking and access to the paved trail. By the way, on the way to Caledonia (on Hwy. 173) you’ll pass the entrance to Rock Cut State Park. This is another great park that offers mountain biking, hiking, camping and boating. I’ve found few Rock County residents that were familiar with this nice place. - Mike
Until recently the trail was owned by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad where it was maintained as an active line for many decades. It was originally known as the Kenosha Division (KD) Line, which crisscrossed Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. The KD line started out in the early 1850’s at a time when nearly every community realized the need for a railroad to help in establishing a strong commercial base. A number of years ago, on this same set of tracks, a train crossing Beaverton Road derailed, leaving behind a torn up road bed, broken ties, and twisted tracks. A huge gouge in the railroad bed remains today, as a reminder of this accident which put an end to train traffic here forever.