The Tunnel Hill State Trail, a crushed
limestone path, stretches 45 miles
southwest from Harrisburg to Karnak,
Ill., with an additional 2.5-mile spur
to Cache River State Natural Area’s
Barkhausen Wetlands Center. Another
recently completed bike trail extends 7.5
miles north form Harrisburg to Eldorado
pronounced “Eldoraydo”). The tun-
nel, located at the midway point of the
main path, is literally and figuratively the
highpoint. While Harrisburg is at 370
feet above sea level and Karnak is at 340
feet, the tunnel is at 680. There’s a barely
noticeable uphill grade to the tunnel from
each endpoint. Another attraction of the
trail is its 23 trestles, ranging from 34 feet
to 450 feet in length.
Prairie flowers and grasses line the
Tunnel Hill pathway, and a variety of
trees—hickory, oak, cottonwood, tulip
poplar and sweet gum—rustle in the
breeze. Birds are plentiful and varied
along the trail, ranging from doves, blue-
birds, and white killdeer (a medium-size
plover) to quail and wild turkey. You may
see opossums, eastern cottontail rabbits,
red foxes, and white-tailed deer too.
The most picturesque section of the
path, a 9.3-mile segment from the tun-
nel to the town of Vienna, crosses several
other well known routes: the River-to-
River hiking trail from the Mississippi
to the Ohio; the American Discovery
cross-county route; Adventure Cycling’s
TransAmerica bike trail; and the Trail of
Tears National Historic Route.
We’re very proud of the trail,” says
Larry Mizell, one of its early boosters.
There’s a lot of diversity: flatlands to
bluffs to swamps to creeks and a few
lakes. The tunnel makes it spectacular.”
Steep rock faces carved
out by the early railway
builders on either side
of the tunnel now shade
riders, hikers and joggers.