Trail History The Old Plank Road Trail has seen lots of changes over the past 150 years. Before 1850 it was a major communication, trading and transportation corridor for Native Americans and the occasional missionary, fur trader, trapper, or explorer. In 1796, the British forces at Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada (near the mouth of the Detroit River) called this path the Sauk Trail becuase it was traveled by Native Americans from Wisconsin and Illinois on their way to  Fort Malden in Amherstburg. The British, and later the Americans, made payments to the various tribes to fulfill treaty obligations. Since 1850 the path of the Old Plank Road Trail has been an emigration route for European settlers looking for land to settle on. The first roads and railroads followed the paths and trails used by Native Americans.
When German emigrants settled in the area in the nineteenth-century the railroad was used for transportation of grain and livestock. The route is a communication and transportation hub for our modern society. The OPRT area is a railroad corridor, the route of oil and gas pipelines, Chicago's link to the electric distribution grid, a crossroad of Interstate traffic, and the home of microwave, copper and fiber optic networks that link the nation with Internet, telephone and television services. Now the trail is a recreation and nature preserve but there's plenty of evidence along the right-of-way of other and older uses. History pages 1 through 7 and the timeline will give you a better idea of what came before. You'll see things in a new and different light the next time you travel down the OPRT.
Grainary in Frankfort Illinois Central Railroad caboose in Matteson Lincoln Highway early paved road Railroad crossing guard shack at Western Ave. (torn down)
Railroad milepost telling locomotive engineer that his train is 30 miles west of East Gary yard.
Railroad milepost telling locomotive engineer that his train is 30 miles west of East Gary yard.
Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois
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