1. Early History In early America there were only two ways to get around, by water or by trail. Most of the roads were unimproved and many of them followed the trails used by the Native Americans. Travel on land was limited because there were few bridges, weather often made passages difficult, and it was expensive to transport goods and supplies. Water travel allowed you to carry more goods but destinations were limited to places on navigable waterways. Before being converted to a rail-trail, the Old Plank Road Trail played a major role in the early transportation history of Illinois. For many years it was a trail used by those on foot or on horseback, later it was surveyed for use as a plank road, and then a number of railroads ran passenger and freight trains over the route. Finally, in 1997, it became what we know it as today: a recreational trail, a nature preserve corridor, a green belt, an alternative transportation network. The area between the bottoms of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan has played a central role in North American transportation and communication. In earlier years, before Europeans invaded the area; the Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Miami, Sauk, Fox and Illinois tribes, developed trails and portages. A short portage between the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River allowed them to travel and transport goods all along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and anywhere on the Great Lakes. If they were traveling on foot or by horse they could follow the Sauk Trail east to Lake Erie or west across Illinois to the Rock Island area on the Mississippi River. A second water route through this area required a short portage in north central Indiana where travelers from the Kankakee River could connect with the St. Joseph River. In 1816, A cession of land suitable for building a canal was secured by a treaty with the allied Tribes of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi, negotiated at Portage des Sioux, Missouri, in August 1816 by William Clark, Ninian Edwards, and Auguste Chouteau. The cession area covered a wide strip between Chicago and Ottawa.
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Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois
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