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Midwest Travel: Riding Along The National Road

“Road trip!” can evoke images of fun and freedom for family and friends. This summer toss in a little history and take off with a “National Road Trip!”

Driving Illinois’ 164-mile stretch of the iconic route takes you from the National Road Welcome Center in Marshall on the Indiana border to the Mississippi. In between you can learn how settlers arrived with bells on, ramble over a covered bridge, gaze up at a giant cross and catsup bottle and climb ancient mounds.

Twenty-one new kiosks along the way give background on the road and information about the communities spread over seven Illinois counties.

The National Road, now U.S. 40 through six states, literally paved the way for settlement in the West. More than a century before interstates, settlers and traders welcomed its building from 1811-1839. Funds ran out before its intended completion in East St. Louis so some National Road literature puts Vandalia as the terminus while Illinois officials tout the original plan.

No matter where you consider the end, no one doubts the road’s impact on Illinois. From 1830 to 1840, the state’s population more than doubled, and stagecoach stops and towns sprang up. Once railroads came along, the road’s popularity dwindled. 

Read the rest of the article in the Illinois Times.

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