The Rock River has long been known for its beauty.
Ogle County settlers in the 19th century viewed it as “The Hudson of the West.”
Artists traveled to the region then (and some still do today) to capture the river’s idyllic scenery on canvas with brushes and paints.
The Telegraph’s editorial platform partway through the 20th century included this plank:
“Advertise the Beautiful Rock River Valley.”
Denizens of the 21st century should have no less an interest in developing the waterway.
Quite a bit has already been accomplished this century to promote recreation and tourism.
The river has been the home of a big catfish tournament for several years now.
Efforts by Frank Masterman of Oregon to promote annual trash cleanups along the river’s banks have yielded positive results.
Riverfront development projects in Dixon, Rock Falls and Sterling promise to make the river more of a magnet for local residents and visitors.
Particularly intriguing to us is the Rock River Trail Initiative.
The Rock River Trail extends the full length of the river – a 300-mile route through 11 counties (including Ogle, Lee and Whiteside) – from the river’s source in Fond du Lac, Wis., to the mouth of the river along the Mighty Mississippi in Rock Island.
The initiative desires to improve access to the river’s natural resources, recreational opportunities, scenic beauty, and historical and cultural assets.
The trail recently was designated part of the National Water Trail System.
With that designation, sites along the trail become eligible to apply for federal grants to make improvements.
The National Park Service also may become involved in promoting and marketing the trail.
The designation does not come with a magic wand. Tons of tourists won’t suddenly appear at river communities’ doorsteps.
Local leaders and entrepreneurs must take the initiative to make the most of the new connection to the National Water Trail System. (Visit rockrivertrail.com for more information.)
If additional ways can be developed for people to enjoy the waterway, it could mean a brighter future for our region.
And that, like the Rock River, would be a beautiful thing.