Rock River Gains National Water Trail Status - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Rock River Gains National Water Trail Status

Updated:

Elevating a local resource onto the national stage...the Rock River has officially joined the National Water Trails System.

Water trails are designed to encourage people to explore and protect rivers.

The Rock stretches 320 miles.

Connecting Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to the Mississippi River right here in the Quad Cities.

Often the Rock takes a back seat compared to its big brother, the mighty Mississippi, but supporters of this initiative say the Rock deserves just as much attention.

"In a lot of communities the Rock River is the central focus, in our area the Mississippi River is our front porch, and a lot of times the Rock River is our back porch, but it's truly a great resource and shouldn't be underestimated," says River Actions Dan McNeil.

He says the national status will let canoe and kayaking enthusiasts, paddlers, from outside the area in on a secret about the Rock.

"It has diversity, it has stretches that are natural areas, and then there are urban areas, the number of places where you can park put in, take out, there's a lot you can do," says McNeil.

The trail serves a basic need, putting up signs highlighting hazards along the route, like steel dam in Milan. It also serves as a guide to campsites and areas to portage.

"You really have all the logistics and all the points along the river mapped out for you," says McNeil.

The water trail designation also serves as a tool to reconnect people with the nature flowing right through it.

"It's a beautiful river, it's teeming with wildlife, there are eagles that nest on it, there are several endangered species that live on it, it's really a national treasure that we should all respect," says Quad Cities Waterkeeper Arthur Norris.

He works to protect and clean up the rivers in the Mississippi watershed. He says getting people on them is the first step to raising awareness of the need to keep the rivers healthy.

"They see the wildlife that depends on the rivers to exist, and they see where a lot of their drinking water comes from, and how it's being affected," says Norris.

Issues that become clearer the closer a person gets to the water.

"When people recreate on the river, they become more connected to the river and then they're more likely to care and conserve for our rivers," says McNeil.

The group responsible for getting the water trail application approved wants to establish two additional trails along the Rock.

One for hiking and biking, and another marking the roads that run along the river.