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The Evolution of Kansas Trails

First, of course, this land emerged from the seas; and for eons upon eons was ruled by different organisms from giant reptiles to woolly mammoths. Closer to our time, the dominant, non-human plains animal was this fellow -- the American Bison.

Sharing the plains with the bison were the various tribes of indigenous peoples. They used the trails that animals had made in their wanderings from food to water for that same purpose, but also to interact with other tribes.

The first Europeans to trample the Kansas plains were Spaniards led by Coronado searching for gold. The French trappers ventured onto the plains as well. In the 19th century wagon trains became common sights, and came to dominate plains travel for several decades.

The 19th century also saw the rapid rise of the railroad, which dominated travel across the plains well into the mid-20th century. The railroad was elbowed out of dominance by highway transportation, which dominates until the present time.

In the latter half of the 20th century a movement grew to adapt unused rail corridors as multi-use trails leading to the National Rails-to-Trails Act. The bicyclist rides on the former Missouri-Pacific Railway in Shawnee County, Kansas.

Rail-trails were just a part of the increasing interest in linear parks and trails as desirable community assets. This couple strolls on a trail on a river levee in Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas.

 
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