The Grand Opening of the Rock River Trail was a success!

The grand opening ceremony of the Rock River Trail was held June 3rd at Rotary River Center in Beloit, Wisconsin, with celebration activities in a number of river communities in Wisconsin and Illinois. The ceremony was a successful one with 150 trail enthusiasts, friends and officials on hand to formally open the Rock River Trail and celebrate the natural beauty and wonders of the Rock River.

Trail aficionados representing the eight trail elements – paddling, driving, biking, hiking, horse riding, air, art and chocolate! – were part of the opening ceremony. More than 30 cyclists from Stateline Spinners, Janesville Velo Club, Team Fur Bandit, and Blackhawk Bicycle Club rode from the Beloit Airport to showcase the Rock River Trail Bike Route. Members of the Beloit chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association staged a flyover along the Rock River, much to the delight of attendees at the ceremony. And everyone enjoyed the historical enactment with French fur traders and Voyager canoe, and the 1915 Ford Model “T” automobile that welcomed visitors to the scenic and historic road route of the Rock River Trail.

To help promote the Rock River National Water Trail, three local paddlers, Gary Meier, Perry Folts and Terry Meyers, launched from Beloit on a kayak journey of 163 miles to reach the Mississippi River with overnight stops at camping areas along the river.

Presentations of the 320-Mile Award were made to five individuals who paddled the entire length of the Rock River from headwaters above the Horicon Marsh to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois. Nels and Dan Akerlund of Rockford, Illinois accomplished their paddle in 1994, and Jake Boucher, Garrett Feik and Jon Gress did so in 2014 while they were students at Maranatha University in Watertown, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin state representatives Mark Spreitzer (45th District) and Amy Loudenbeck (31st District) presented a joint resolution of the Wisconsin Legislature that recognizes the Rock River Trail, honors the efforts of trail founder Frank Schier and celebrates the trail’s grand opening. Nels Akerlund of Rockford, a well known photographer, adventurer and author of the book “Our Rock River,” was the keynote speaker. Other speakers included officials of the cities of Beloit and South Beloit, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service RTCA Program-Milwaukee office.

We appreciate the efforts of our dedicated council of volunteers and the support of our sponsoring organizations, NGOs and agency partners. Thank you to Visit Beloit and the Stateline Community Foundation for their grant support of this event.