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Time spent on the Chenoa Route 66 Prairie Trail is time shared with history. As rail-trails are ones built over the railbeds of earlier train lines, this “road-trail” is one built directly over America’s iconic Route 66 roadway.
A first alignment of Route 66 in Chenoa served from 1921-1944 and went directly through town on Morehead Street. It is marked so one can still follow that older routing, from Route 24 north to the present highway.
During World War II, much of Illinois Route 66 had to be reconstructed to carry the sustained and heavy use of munitions trucks. The Chenoa section was constructed as a bypass around the west side of town. This alignment then served from 1944 until Route 66 was decommissioned in 1977. For its significance, this Chenoa section of Route 66 is part of a listing on the National Register of Historical Places.
The Chenoa pathway is entirely level and smooth. Actually, it’s just one resurfaced lane of the southbound pair of lanes in Route 66’s final, four-lane configuration. At some point, road traffic was blocked on these southbound lanes. And the two northbound lanes of earlier days serve the now two-way traffic on what’s called Historic U.S. 66, just east of the abandoned lanes where the trail lies.
The trail has some great exhibits and information about Old Route 66 at the trailhead in Chenoa. There’s a shaded picnic table and cabinet of brochures about area events and places.
Parking is available at the southern trail end on County Road 3000 N. From U.S. Route 24 in Chenoa, turn south onto Historic U.S. 66 and proceed one mile to County Road 3000 N. Turn right on the county road, then right again into the designated parking lot for the trail.
I guess it’s neighboring Lexington IL that has the ‘official’ Memory Lane of Route 66. But I had memories aplenty when I rode this short trail in Chenoa. I grew up about 80 miles southwest of Chenoa when Route 66 was the best and only way to drive to Chicago or St. Louis. I later lived in Mexico for several years, and most of the miles between here and the border were on Old 66. Ah, stop me now. I have not time enough to tell all my stories of our Mother Road.
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