Trail of the Month: September 2006
Wabash Cannonball Trail, Ohio
In 1990 when Norfolk Southern Railroad announced the abandonment of service on the rail line that now comprises the Wabash Cannonball Trail, local trail enthusiasts came together in a shared vision of creating a public recreational trail and utility corridor. After four years of hard work, in March 1994 the corridor was purchased for conversion into a multi-use trail.
Passing through four counties and covering a total of 63 miles, the Wabash is now one of Ohio's longest rail-trails. Incredibly, if you travel its full length, you will cross 16 bridges of which the Tiffin River Bridge is the longest (210 feet) and the Beaver Creek Bridge the highest (38 feet above water level). It also features the Gene Markley Corridor named for a long-time, local volunteer, supporter and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy board member who was tragically killed in an automobile accident.
The trail was built on the beds of two rail lines that converged in Maumee, Ohio. The 46-mile "North Fork" runs in an east-west direction nearly all the way to the Indiana state line and Montpelier, Ohio and the "South Fork" heads southwest for 17 miles to the edge of Liberty Center. Along the way, the surface of the 10- to 12-foot-wide trail varies from asphalt to hard-packed cinder ballast depending on the jurisdiction. Hikers, bikers, equestrians and cross-country skiers enjoy access to the trail throughout the year.
And the trail is popular with more than just the locals. In August 2006 Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Midwest Regional Office kicked off the first Midwest Express Bike Tour on the Wabash Cannonball Trail. One hundred and fifty riders from across Ohio, eight other states and Canada began their ride at the Indiana state line and rode the trail's North Fork from Montpelier. For the first day of the three-day bike tour, riders enjoyed the Wabash's shaded corridors, quiet countryside and flat riding, before continuing on to Toledo and their journey's end in Oberlin, Ohio.
The Wabash also comprises the beginning leg of the North Coast Inland Trail, an ambitious intra-state trail project that, when completed, will stretch across the northwestern third of Ohio and will connect to the Ohio to Erie Trail which bisects the state from north to south. The entire North Coast Inland Trail is approximately 35 to 40 percent complete and the Wabash makes up about 15 percent of it.
The trail is closed to public access in two small sections near the Elmira/Burlington area and just to the east of Wauseon. However, short road detours in both cases will bring you back to the trail. When the trail is fully opened, it will be surfaced with finely crushed stone in rural areas. Asphalt will surface the trail in more densely populated ones. In the meantime you may find the surface rough in some spots. However, mountain bikers and hybrid bicyclists should have no problem traveling on all open sections of the trail.