The Southwind Rail Trail is a 6.5-mile trail connecting Iola to Humboldt in Allen County. It is, in effect, an extension of the Prairie Spirit Trail, which runs from Iola to Ottawa, and utilizes the same railbanked corridor.
The railroad line was originally built in 1870 as the LL&G Railroad (Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston), which was later purchased by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and still later by the SKO Railroad Company, before ultimately going out of service.
The right of way was purchased in 1870 by LL&G for $30 an acre. Later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe had as many as four passenger trains and a number of freights making daily runs between Kansas City and Tulsa.
The Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy railbanked the right-of-way in 2010. Thrive Allen County led trail development, with funding from the Sunflower Foundation, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and private family foundations, with local volunteers the key to the trail becoming a reality. The trail’s grand opening was in June 2013.
Allen County Commissioners voted unanimously to help maintain and manage the Southwind Rail Trail. This is the first time a county in Kansas has agreed to help maintain and manage a rail-trail.
Although the county is the legal manager of the trail, all work is done by volunteers. The county did not put in any cash, but offered in-kind contributions such as heavy equipment for trail improvements. But county commissioners supported the trail because they saw it as part of a larger economic development strategy aimed at bringing in outsiders and providing recreation and transportation opportunities for residents.
- Origins of the Southwind Rail Trail
- Allen County Is Model For Kansas Trail Development
- Southwind Rail Trail at BikeAllenCounty.org
- Southwind Rail Trail on Facebook