Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Katy Trail

In my last couple of days in Missouri I hired a car and drove not very far from Columbia to Rocheport, a quaint little town on the Big Muddy, but also one of the access points to the Katy Trail.

The Missouri River, or Big Muddy, at Rocheport.

Church at Rocheport.
(What's happened to my verticals?)

House at Rocheport.

Way back in the 1800s the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (=MKT, hence Katy, geddit?) ran from St Louis down into Texas, but in the second half of the Twentieth century it gradually lost steam, and the last freight train ran along it in the 1980s. But thanks to a local visionary and philanthropist, Ted Jones, the State of Missouri was able to buy up the track bed, and turn it into a bike trail and State park, one of the longest rail-trails in the US.

At Rocheport I was able to hire a bike and pedal off, binoculars round my neck, balancing the muscular effort against the cooling breeze. On the first day I went north to New Franklin, and one the second the other way to a bit beyond MacBaine.

Bridge on the Katy Trail.

The northern trip ran alongside wetlands at first, then through rather uninspiring corn fields, though there were always things to see. I almost ran over a little colourful snake, and a deer watched me approaching for a long while, apparently unable to work out what the strange creature was until I was just 30 m or so away. When I reached New Franklin I met the only other cyclist I saw all day. Perhaps this was because of the weather, since by now the clouds were building up and thunder was rolling around. As I cycled back one storm was moving ahead of my and another coming up behind, but they never got closer than a couple of miles, which was probably just as well on some of the exposed stretches of trail.

These flowers are common.
Hummingbirds like them.

Tunnel just north of Rocheport.
The only one on the Katy Trail.

The next day's southward run was more interesting as it was almost all right beside the river, under high limestone bluffs. Lewis and Clark passed this way in 1804 and noted "verry fine" indian pictographs on the cliffs made from pigments and inlaid mussel shells. Sadly the MKT engineers blasted alomost all of them away to form the railway, but a tiny fragment remains at one point. The weather was better today and many more people were out cycling. The Katy Trail is a major tourist attraction, and people cycle the while 300+ km.

Limestone bluffs along the trail.

Fragment of Indian pictograph.
The originals must have been spectacular.

MKT explosives store under the bluff.
That's what happened to the pictographs.

Burr Oak near the trail.
Included because it was the only place where I fell off!

The whole visit to Missouri went very well, and it was good to get to know another small part of the US, and one quite different from Texas.


  1. That tunnel is beautiful and the house is quite quaint but the limestone with its fragments of time embedded is the real ahh for me. What a tale it would tell, and how beautiful to discover it all over again. Some people are so luck to see all these beautiful sights that God has planned, so many years ago.

  2. Ah Michele! A comment on my blog at last! I thought everyone had given up reading.

    Yes, it was an interesting place, even when only for a few days.