Great River Bike Trail
On June 14, 2003, Savanna added another gem to its treasure trove of recreational opportunities with the opening of the 3.14 mile Savanna Bike Trail.
The scenic trail rises over Savanna’s historic railroad yards, spans the Plum River, and meanders along Spring Lake Wildlife Refuge.
Construction on the trail began in the spring of 2002 after Moring Construction of McConnell was awarded the bid for just over $2.1 million. After working into the early winter of 2002, the final touches on the bike trail were completed in the spring, including a layer of blacktop for the trail’s surface.
One of the unique features of the trail is the steel bridge that climbs over the railroad yards near the Savanna Marina. The 15-span prefabricate truss bridge rises 23 feet into the air and is 1,135 feet long.
The bike path’s other bridge stretches across the Plum River at the site of the old Twin Bridges. The single-span prefabricated steel stress is 220 feet long and has rest areas with bike racks and benches at each end.
Utilizing the former Milwaukee Railroad bed, the bike trail also features a rest area overlooking Bowen’s Lake and provides access to the Spring Lake Wildlife Refuge and its gravel top levees.
Savanna’s section was one of the final obstacles in completing the 60-mile Great River Trail that runs to Rock Island from Savanna.
Savanna’s section of the trail was a battle dating back to 1994 when the city received a $549,000 grant to complete the trail. The original plan had the bike trail going under the railroad tracks near the Savanna Slough but the railroad wouldn’t allow it. An alternate route was planned along the Plum River to Pike Street but endangered animals scrapped that plan.
With more money needed to go over the railroad tracks, then governor George Ryan announced in November of 2002 that another $1.5 million would be available to complete the project.
Not only did the new funding bring the trail to Savanna’s downtown it also upgraded the surface of the road from limestone to blacktop, and lowered Savanna’s cost of the project to just $24,000, 10 percent of the engineering costs.
In 2008, a ceremony was held and the bike trail was dedicated to Gene Flack, the Savanna Mayor who was instrumental in getting the project completed.
Savanna serves as the northern trail head of the 62-mile Great River Trail that runs south to Rock Island. Other river towns on the trail include Thomson, Fulton, Albany, Cordova, Port Byron, Rapids City, Hampton, East Moline, and Moline.
The Great River Trail is part of the 535-mile Grand Illinois Trail that extends from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River along the northern border of Illinois. The trail then loops back across the state along the Illinois River and Hennepin Canal.