Years in the planning, Rock River Trail opens

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Theresa Oldenburg | May 26, 2017

BELOIT -- After years of planning and preparing, the Rock River Trail officially will open Saturday, June 3, at the Rotary River Center, 1160 S. Riverside Drive in Beloit.

The event coincides with National Trails Day. Beloit was selected because it is located at the halfway point of the 320-mile trail.

The trail begins in headwaters above Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin and ends where the Rock River flows into the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois. The trail traveling through 11 counties and 41 communities.

The Rock River Trail Initiative began seven years ago to create a system of recreational trails encompassing the Rock River. Today the trail is recognized as a National Water Trail by the National Park Service.

But it's much more than a water trail and offers many ways to experience and discover the Rock River and its river communities.

The trail offers a scenic and historic road route for touring the river corridor by car or motorcycle. In addition, there are designated routes for biking, hiking and horseback riding and an air route that links 10 airports along the river.

Recent additions to the trail include an online map of historic sites, a brochure titled The Art Route of the Rock River Trail and the Rock River Chocolate Trail, which offers a delicious way to enjoy any trip.

To encourage exploration, the initiative has established a 320-Mile Award for individuals who reach the goal of doing the whole 320 miles of the trail, whether it's via hiking, biking, paddling or driving.

Miles can be accumulated over any period of time and can be broken up in any segments. Participants keep their own records and self-report their accomplishments to receive their award patch. Five paddlers will be awarded their patches at the grand opening.

To commemorate the grand opening , Gary Meier and Perry Folts of Beloit will launch on June 3 for a kayak journey to the Mississippi River. The 163-mile journey will take about seven days with overnight stops at camping areas that have been established along the water trail.

The public is invited to participate in  the many activities happening before and after the ceremony. All events are free unless otherwise indicated.

For more information on all elements of the Rock River Trail, go to

Grand opening schedule, June 3. 2017

7 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Fly-In/Drive-In pancake breakfast at Beloit Airport hosted by EAA Chapter 60. Enjoy a pancake breakfast and view classic cars and airplanes, $7.

9 a.m. -- Community bicycle ride hosted by the Stateline Spinners and other area riding groups from Beloit Airport to Rotary River Center.

9 a.m. -- Community flotilla paddle to the grand opening ceremony, launching from Armstrong Eddy Park. Must provide own kayak/canoe.

9 a.m. to noon -- Fur trader re-enactor and voyager canoe exhibit

9:30 a.m. to noon -- Booths and displays by Visit Beloit, Friends of Riverfront, Sky Dive the Rock, Rock River Trail Initiative

9:30 a.m. -- Horse trail ride at Happy Hollow Park by Rock County Multi-Use Trail Group.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- Grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting with speakers.

11 a.m. -- Riverwalk stroll; Rock Trail Coalition will lead a 2.5-mile walk on Beloit's Riverwalk

11 a.m. -- Kayak camping and packing for an overnight trip, a seminar by Rocktown Adventures

11:30 a.m. -- Tales from the Trail: Q&A session featuring Rock River Trail 320-Mile paddlers

1:30 p.m. -- Fur Traders River Run guided paddle trip by Rocktown Adventures

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