(Legend and Bicycle Level of Service Guide)
to the Spoon River Region!
District 4 covers a region from the Peoria area west to the
Mississippi River at the Iowa border. Counties covered are Fulton, Henderson,
Knox, Marshall, McDonough, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell, Warren, and
Woodford as well as portions of adjacent counties. While you are cycling, we invite you to stop and take in many
of the scenic and historic wonders of this region.
This area is defined by rivers: the Illinois to
the east, the Mississippi to the west, and the Spoon River through the middle.
It is this last river that has been immortalized by local poet Edgar Lee
Masters who wrote Spoon River Anthology about life in a fictionalized
Lewistown, his boyhood home. The first inhabitants of this region, the
Algonquin people, called this river “Amoquonsippi” meaning “shell” or “spoon”
plus “river”. The broad valley hides a number of historic villages, old
bridges, and a few surviving grist mills.
Of the eastern boundary of Region 4 is the
Illinois River Valley and Peoria, Central Illinois’ largest city. The Peoria
region sits atop many high and scenic bluffs overlooking Illinois’ most
Rivers, and Streams
Both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are
major water transportation corridors. Large barges filled with grain from farms
all over the Midwest move down these rivers to feed the world. But these rivers
and the Spoon offer recreational opportunities as well, such as fishing,
boating, sailing, and swimming.
The Spoon River itself offers a much more
intimate experience with water and the people living along its banks. The river
meanders past scenic Victorian villages with white-steepled churches and old
Other rivers, streams, and lakes have public
access points. Notable is Argyle Lake, nestled in a series of low, wooded
hills, and found just west of Macomb in a state park named after the lake.
Like much of Illinois, this area was covered by
vast prairie, broken by wooded areas near rivers, streams, and more hilly
regions. Most of the prairie has been converted to farm land, although a few
isolated patches remain. Wooded areas are primarily deciduous hardwoods. Few
pines grow native in this region. Watch out for poison ivy; it is rampant is
Illinois hardwood forests.
Predominant crops are corn and soybeans planted
in vast plots. Other crops include hay, alfalfa, wheat, and fruit groves.
Most wildlife is concentrated along river and
streambeds where much of remaining Illinois timber still stands. Besides
squirrels and skunks, foxes and coyotes roam the rural areas. Gone are the
mountain lions, wolves, and bears which used to inhabit most of the state. The
bison (buffalo) used to roam the prairie areas in vast numbers but disappeared
early in the 19th century.
Near the rivers are waterfowl such as ducks,
geese, herons, and other species on migration routes. The Illinois River valley
has become a winter nestling area for the Bald Eagle, our national symbol.
Poisonous snakes are very rare in this part of
Illinois. You are more likely to encounter such harmless species as bull and
garter snakes, as well as, an endless variety of frogs and toads.
and Recreation Areas
The State of Illinois manages a number of scenic natural areas
where hiking, fishing, camping, and picnicking can be enjoyed in natural
settings. Although many sites have trails, please
note that bicycles are not allowed on any unpaved trails unless otherwise
As in most of the United
States, Native Americans were the first to leave their mark on this land. Parts
of these pre-history cultures are preserved at the Dixon Mounds State Museum in
In the 17th and
18th century the French explored and claimed these lands. The most
famous French explorers were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in 1673.
Small French settlements sprouted along the Mississippi River, the first of
which appeared in 1699 as French mission (modern-day Cahokia) and was the first
permanent European settlement in Illinois. Farther north on the Illinois River,
a settlement near present-day Peoria was formed by the French.
The Spoon River valley is
rich in 19th century history and lore. Here is the birthplace of the
famous poet Edgar Lee Masters who wrote about this area in his Spoon River
Anthology. Much from this past era remains preserved in towns and villages in
this sleepy river valley.
Paths, Rides, and Routes
One long recreational trail
exists in Region 4: the Rock Island State Trail. The 27-mile trail, part of an
abandoned railroad line, extends from Peoria’s north end north and west to
Toulon in central Stark county. A planned extension south will carry this trail
into Peoria. The fine limestone surface is suitable for bicycles and hikers.
Many shorter bike
facilities are found in the Peoria area. In Peoria is the Pimiteoui Trail, a
five-mile multiuse trail adjacent to the Illinois River. When completed, this
trail will be a 20-mile system connecting to other existing and proposed area
trails. Just across the river in East Peoria is the River Trail of Illinois, a
5-mile multiuse trail.
Fulton County is a
wonderful place to ride the back roads. The low-volume roads and rolling
terrain offer a scenic yet moderately challenging bike ride in one of the most
charming rural areas in Illinois.