About Wabash Cannonball Trail

The WABASH CANNONBALL TRAIL is a 66 mile multi-use recreational trail in Northwest Ohio. It provides non-motorized access to hikers, bikers, equestrians*, and cross-country skiers. The 12 foot wide trail surface varies within the different jurisdictions, from asphalt to hard packed cinder ballast. *Some jurisdictions may restrict horse traffic. The trail is a part of the nationwide movement to rejuvenate former railroad corridors into linear parks where people can enjoy the beauty and solitude of the outdoors while also providing a safe alternate mode of transportation between towns and villages along the route. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails throughout the United States. View the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy web site for more information about rail-trails. Portions of the Wabash Cannonball Trail are also certified segments of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST), a 4,600 mile long hiking trail stretching over eight states from North Dakota to Vermont and connecting the Lewis and Clark Trail in western North Dakota with the Appalachian Trail in upstate New York. The NCNST is administered by the National Park Service.

When Norfolk Southern Railroad announced the abandonment of service on this rail line in 1990, several local visionaries and enthusiasts gathered to share ideas about creating a public recreational trail and utility corridor. Their dream became reality on March 24, 1994, when the corridor was purchased from Norfolk Southern. The Wabash Cannonball Trail is one of Ohio’s longest rail-trails, covering a total of 66 miles and traversing four counties: Fulton, Henry, Lucas, and Williams. The Trail is owned by several partners within the four counties. With the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) acting as coordinating partner for the project, the land-owning partners are Lucas County, the city of Maumee, Northwestern Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association, Inc. (NORTA), Metroparks Toledo, the city of Wauseon, and the village of Whitehouse. The Trail is actually comprised of two rail lines that converge in Maumee at Jerome Road. The “North Fork” of the Trail runs in an east-west direction, 48 miles from Maumee to Montpelier, Ohio within 13 miles of the Indiana state line. The “South Fork” takes a southwesterly route from Maumee to the restored historical railroad depot in Liberty Center, Ohio for a length of 18 miles. The average width of the Trail corridor is 100 feet, with the width of the Trail surface being 10-12 feet. If you traverse the length of the Trail, you will cross over 13 bridges. The longest of these is the Tiffin River Bridge, at 210 feet in length. The Beaver Creek Bridge is the highest, at 38 feet above water level. The Fraker Mill Bridge south of Delta, Ohio is an authentic timber-framed covered bridge that spans Bad Creek. The Trail is surfaced with crushed aggregate in the rural areas and asphalt through the more populated areas. The entire Trail is paved in Lucas County. A six-mile stretch of Trail in Fulton County from the Fulton/Lucas County Line to State Route 109 is scheduled for paving in 2020. Mountain and hybrid/cross bikes will have no problem traveling on all open sections of the Trail.


History of the Trail

The Wabash Cannonball Trail runs on two lines originally established by the Wabash Railroad. The southwestern leg was first built in 1855, running from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Toledo, Ohio, making it one of the oldest rail lines in northwest Ohio. Passenger service ended in 1959, while freight service continued until 1969. The line had depots in Maumee, Whitehouse, Colton, and Liberty Center. Colton was once a bustling railroad town having a coal yard, hotel, saloon, and a pickle plant. The Wabash Maumee depot was “razed” in 1982, and the Liberty Center Depot is currently being restored by the Liberty Center Historical Society. The Whitehouse Depot was purchased and moved to Michigan. The Norfolk and Western Railway purchased the Wabash line, and then consolidated with the Southern Railroad to form the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The east-west line of the Trail was a “new” railroad, having been built around the turn of the century. Some of the towns that sprang up along this line, lacked the ability to thrive when the railroad ceased to be the primary means of transportation. It passed through the communities of Brailey and South Delta, where depots remain in private ownership. It continued on through Wauseon, Elmira, West Unity, and Montpelier. There is an historical museum at the Williams County Fairground in Montpelier, which contains railroad memorabilia, and an old Wabash caboose. Rail service ended on this line around 1990, less than 100 years after it was built.