After years of planning, discussion and some resistance, the Salt Creek
Greenway Trail is becoming a reality, with some great progress throughout DuPage County! This is big news, as the final trail will proceed north all the way from the Brookfield Zoo to Busse Woods in Schaumburg.
Recent progress includes the paving of the short (but very important) stretch of the trail between Canterberry Lane and the I-294 viaduct (near Mile Marker 17), which is the only safe way to cross between Cook and DuPage counties in the area. Recent rains have brought the water level as measured here up to the 7-foot range, and a ride by this underpass showed that, at a 6.50 level, there was approximately 2 feet of water over the trail. Since the viaduct angles up from the trail, it is possible to traverse the underpass at this water level, but walk carefully so you don't fall in!
Oak Brook has seen some great progress as well, with a new pedestrian bridge along York Road over I-88, as well as signage and other improvements leading you through York Woods (Mile Marker 16, at south entrance) and along the south frontage road along Roosevelt Road.
This takes you to one of the most crucial additions, the trail underpass beneath Roosevelt Road at the Salt Creek (near Mile Marker 15), allowing safe passage north into Elmhurst. This underpass is at a very low level relative to the creek, and so even moderate rainfall will make this impassable, but it is a huge leap in safety over the alternatitives in this area. Just be sure to enter it slowly, as the mud left behind from high water stays slick for days after a rain.
UPDATE - Recent rains have brought the water level as measured here up into the 7-foot range, and a ride by this underpass showed that, at a 6.50 level, there was approximately 3 feet of water over the trail. The mud left behind as the water level receded from its' peak at around 7.5 feet showed that the water probably covered the tall guard rail that seperates the trail from the creek. Turn around, don't drown!
The next day, the water level over the trail had apparently gone down about a foot, and the measured water level was also down to 5.50, and so there seems to be a good correlation between the measured level and the actual rise/drop in levels at this point.
As you emerge from beneath Roosevelt Road going north, you ride behind a condo development whose property values must surely have gone up with the addition of this great trail resource. In fact, if you are into biking and canoeing, this would be an ideal place to live, as there is a very modern canoe launch just across the street in Eldridge Park!
Canoeists launching from here will soon find themselves at a low-head dam, in either direction they choose to paddle. Be aware of these dams and ALWAYS portage around them from a respectful distance if you choose to continue past them.
Launching downstream from Eldridge would probably add at least 1.5 hours to your journey to the end of the creek in Lyons, if this was your goal. As always, ride your bike first to assess the water level before setting out for a day on the creek, as very high water levels will limit the clearance under the bridges in this stretch.
As you progress north on the Salt Creek Greenway Trail on your bike from Eldridge Park (Mile Marker 14 is by the Sledding Hill), you will cross the creek and proceed north through a network of Elmhurst parks. The trail is paved for quite a ways north, switching to wood chips/dirt (as of this writing, 6/09) near the intersection of Madison Street and Fairview Avenue.
The trail is well-established doubletrack from here north to where the trail takes to the quiet street of Rex Boulevard and Crescent Avenue, following Rex north to Prairie Path Lane. I'm sure that this stretch will soon be paved as well, making a complete segment to the intersection with the Illinois Prarie Path and its' connection to the Great Western Trail.
The trail now merges with the Illinois Prairie Path for the trip west over the Salt Creek and Route 83, where it branches north again immediately at the first street you encounter (Monterey Avenue) as you come down across the bridge.
This stretch of trail is important in that it connects the north/south rider to both the Illinois Prairie Path and the Great Western Trail, making the Salt Creek Greenway Trail the Interstate 294 of Chicagoland cycling, circling around the city and connecting many main cycling arteries together safely.
You take Monterey Avenue north two blocks to Wildwood Street, where you take a right turn into Rotary Park (Mile Marker 12), picking up the paved trail north towards Schaumburg at the end of the street.
There is another underpass beneath St. Charles Road next to the State Police Weigh Station, and the trail remains paved for a short stretch farther north as of this writing (6/09), terminating at the intersection of Monterey Avenue and Thomas Street.
To proceed North from this point on your journey to Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village, the current strategy is to take Thomas Street west to Villa Avenue and then to proceed north on Villa all the way to North Avenue. There are sidewalks for most of this stretch, but be careful on either side of the railroad grade crossing, which leaves you no room to avoid busy Villa Avenue traffic
The final plans call for (and work is proceeding on as of 9/09) the trail to pick up just north of the railroad track grade crossing by taking 2nd Avenue east to where the trail is being cut in, but it will probably be next season before this is completed. I don't know how they plan to cross North Avenue at this point in time, although visitor feedback suggests an underpass for this location. If so, this will also be subject to the effects of high water levels, but will be way better than crossing North Avenue!
I have also gotten visitor feedback that states that the trail is being cut along the west bank of the creek south of the Oedium Expo Center, and that provisions for an overpass into Cricket Creek Woods are in the works. This overpass is just across the street from Priority Services on Villa Avenue and will connect to the Cricket Creek trail network towards the middle of the southernmost pond.
Unfortunately, the signage also dries up once you pass Monterey and Thomas. I initially took Villa north past North Avenue, thinking that the trail might pick up behind the Oedium complex, but it did not. Worse, Villa Avenue north of North Avenue has absolutely no pedestrian accommodations (in true DuPage County fashion), with no sidewalks, shoulders or even median strips to get you out of traffic lanes.
By the time I reached Fullerton Avenue, I was done with Villa Avenue, and so I took a chance and went east on Fullerton across the creek. This was fortuitous, as I found myself in the middle of the Cricket Creek Woods, a hidden gem that I had passed many times on Rt. 83, but never had a chance to explore.
Until the trail project is complete, the strategy to avoid the worst stretch of Villa Avenue is this - Take Villa to North Avenue, cross to the north side of North Avenue and go right (east) across the creek and into the parking lot of a strip mall containing the Diplomat West banquet hall.
Proceed through the lot until you connect to the parking lot of the Courtyard by Mariott hotel (which would make a fine base of operations if you were visiting the area and looking to do some riding or canoeing while here!). At the northwest conrer of this lot, behind the hotel's indoor pool, look for a singletrack trail into the woods. This short trail will hook you into the Cricket Creek network that can take you all the way to Lake Street.
As far as canoeing is concerned, it looks like a pretty easy launch from the southwest side of the bridge that takes Fullerton Avenue over the creek. In addition, there is parking in the Cricket Creek north lot just steps away.
I have never paddled this stretch, and so I can't speak to any dams or other hazards, but you may be able to start here and get all the way to Oakbrook before you encounter a dam. That would be a nice afternoon trip! I am unaware of any dams between Fullerton and the canoe launch at Eldridge Park in Elmhurst, so this might be an easy and fun shorter ride. With luck, I will have a new boat this season, and I will then do a proper reconnaissance.
A nice network of limestone trails rings the three ponds within Cricket Creek woods on the south side of Fullerton, with the southern-most pond even allowing the use of radio-controlled model boats! The Salt Creek Greenway Trail is now cut through the north end of this park to take you to the Lake Street/Interstate 290 area.
It looks like there will be no pedestrian bridge over the intersection of Wood Dale Road and Lake Street, so a street crossing here is inevitable. When the trail is done, we will pick it up on the west side of Wood Dale Road just north of Lake Street, where it will proceed to cross the creek into Addison and through Addison Community Park to Addison Road, just south of the water treatment plant entrance.
If you enjoy sledding in the winter, there is a nice little sledding hill at the southeast corner of Addison Community Park that looks like it will send its' riders right down onto the paved trail. As of this writing (11/09), this stretch is paved through to Addison Road, as is the stretch north of I-290 past Maple Meadows golf course to Forest Preserve Drive in Wooddale. Only the creek overpass remains incomplete, so by this time next year we should be in business!
Turning west/left onto Forest Preserve Drive will take you the long block to the first street (Brookwood Drive) where you turn right and go north past where the pavement ends and pick up the trail network that runs beneath the power lines.
From here on north, all that needs to be done is additional signage and the installation of continuous mile markers, as existing trails and bike lanes take you right through Wooddale, Itasca and Elk Grove Village and into Busse Woods. I expected this stretch to involve a lot of street riding, but I was surprised at how much of it was discrete trail (almost all of it through Wooddale and Itasca)!
Turn right onto the main trail from the Brookwood Drive entrance and it will proceed east for a few hundred yards and then turn north and set you off past Wooddale Fire Station 1 towards Irving Park Road, for which they built an impressive overpass to take you on north and west along the railroad tracks until you reach Prospect Avenue.
You then cross the tracks and ride the sidewalk across Industrial Drive a few hundred yards north on Prospect Avenue, proceeding until you reach the entrance to a trail network on your right that will take you through the Salt Creek Marsh forest preserve.
The Salt Creek Marsh preserve is a wide open space with a few ponds and a few feeder trails coming into it from Wooddale. Keep an eye on the signs before the intersections and you will be fine, but you basically proceed east from Prospect Avenue to the first intersection, then turn left and go north towards Thorndale Avenue.
You will be beneath the power lines again through here until you approach Thorndale Avenue, where you will again head east across Salt Creek and the trail will spit you out onto Bauman Court in front of the DeVry University campus.
You will take Bauman Court
to Mittel Boulevard, which has a wide bicycle lane on both sides as it carries you through industrial Wooddale and into the residential areas of Elk Grove Village north of Devon Avenue, where Mittel Blvd. turns into Ridge Avenue. Fans of Market Day products will be interested to note that there is a distribution center with a public store just north of Thorndale Avenue.
After you have wound the mile or so north along Mittel Blvd., you will approach Devon Avenue at which point you will be riding Elk Grove Village streets most of the rest of the way to Busse Woods. The roads are mostly quiet and the turns are mostly well-marked, so I found my way through on the first try, but a few more signs would help on the longer winding stretches of Brantwood Avenue.
Busse Woods is a story unto itself, and my personal experience with it is limited to the paved trail that circles through the preserve, taking you near the Woodfield Mall and the network of Schaumburg trails. If you have any Busse area singletrack to share, pleasse contact us so we can explore it and add it to this site.
This completes our ride up from the Brookfield Zoo to Busse Woods. If the mile markers are to be trusted, this is a 26 mile ride one-way, and only 4 miles or so are on streets, which is an amazing achievement in congested Cook and DuPage counties!. Once the project is complete, this number will drop even further.
The southern end of the continuous trail is currently at the Brookfield Zoo woods at 31st Street near Prairie Avenue in Brookfield. However, it is possible to street ride to the connection with the newly paved stretch starting at 1st Avenue and Ogden Avenue in Lyons (where the Salt Creek flows into the DesPlaines River and ends), which takes you to even more adventure!
From the southern DesPlaines River trail network through Lyons and down to Hodgkins and (eventually) connecting with the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail's Cook County segment as well as Palos Woods, the Salt Creek Greenway Trail is a crucial piece of the northeast Illinois system of trails, allowing an ambitious rider the opportunity to ride literally hundreds of miles on paved trails, safely seperated from auto traffic.
Let us hope that the funding and the political resolve remain in place to finish this grand scheme. I don't feel bad about the taxes I pay when I get such a valuable public resource in return!