Trail initiative marks milestone
The easiest way to get to the Mississippi River is to get into a canoe at Riverside Park and just float.
That's a slight exaggeration, of course. You'll have to haul the canoe around some pesky portages. You also might want to get off the river occasionally to experience the local flora and fauna found in the many parks, museums and taverns you'll float past on the way down river.
At a ceremony Tuesday, the Rock River Trail Initiative placed its first Janesville sign in Riverside Park. The sign is one of more than 100 river access and portage markers that will be placed starting at the Rock River headwaters near the Horicon Marsh to Rock Island, Ill., and the Mississippi.
The Rock River Trail, which runs through 11 counties in two states, is 300 miles long. The trail initiative worked with public officials and private individuals to identifiy river access points and portages. In addition, organizers also have complied a list of parks, camping areas and other amenities that might be of interest to travelers.
The water portion of the river trail is only the first step.
"This is one leg of a three-legged stool," said Greg Farnham, coordinator for the Wisconsin portion of the trail.
The second part of the initiative involves creating a "scenic and historic" road route parallel to the river to encourage stops at natural areas, historic sites and, of course, businesses and hotel along the way.
Finally, the group wants to create a bike route using existing and yet-to-be built trails that would allow cyclists to have the same experience.
"The trail is a work in progress," Farnham said.
The group hopes to have the river portion of the trail completed by fall, so it can apply to the National Park Service to become a national trail.
Rock County's segment of the trail starts in Royce Dallman County Park in the town Milton before rolling down the river to Bubba D's just above the Indianford Dam. Travelers portage around the dam and re-enter the river at Indianford County Park, just across County M, about one-tenth of a mile.
After another 13 miles, another portage takes travelers around the Centerway Dam. For the Monterey Dam, travelers get out at Monterey Park and carry their canoes about four-tenths of a mile to the next river entry.
After that it's smooth sailing for another 14 miles to the Beloit dam.
The development of all three segments of the river trail can only boost local efforts to attract visitors to the city, said Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Some of the features local residents take for granted, such as Riverside Park, are attractive features to those used to bland suburbia. The river trail also fits into a variety of hobbies including canoeing, kayaking and bird watching.
"For us, what's next is to put the whole package together," said Rebout. "We can do that in stages. We'll start by putting some information on our website about the trail."