Katy Trail: the High Line's country cousin

If you’ve had a chance to check out HIGH LINE STORIES, you’ve seen how a group of creative people devoted to their community can turn blight into beauty. You don’t have to make a special trip to Manhattan, though, to see an example of how local citizens have transformed unused railroad tracks and facilities into green spaces: there’s likely a “rail trail” within a short drive. Since the 70s, state and city governments, conservation organizations, and other private entities have purchased abandoned rail easements, and converted them into public spaces for exercise, relaxation, and even tourism.

Missouri’s Katy Trail is one of the crown jewels of US “rails to trails” projects. Running from Clinton (about 75 miles from Kansas City) to St. Charles (about 25 miles from St. Louis), the Katy Trail follows both the old MKT railroad line, and, in part, Lewis and Clark’s path along the Missouri River. At 225 miles, it’s currently the longest rails to trails project in the US (Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail will extend 321 miles when complete). The trail meanders through the Ozarks, and provides both Missourians and tourists with the opportunity to see some of the state’s most breathtaking scenery on foot, by bike, or even (on a 25-mile stretch) by horseback.

Like the High Line, the Katy Trail has not only provided reclaimed green space across the state, but also contributes to the economies of many of the small towns through which it passes. Towns such as Rocheport have revived themselves as tourist destinations, and numerous wineries have sprung up in close proximity to the trail. You could easily plan a biking and wine tasting trip of several days, with stops in Augusta, Hermann, Sedalia, and other small, picturesque communities.

Not sure about rails to trails projects near you?  Check out the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s TrailLink.com to find rail trail projects in your area…

Image credits: ken ratcliff, mobikefed, and Daquella manera at Flickr under a Creative Commons license