Origins of the Great Lake-to Lake Trails Route #1
The catch phrase “Rails to Trails” is a concise description of the components of the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails Route #1. From the Kal-Haven Trail in the west to the Macomb Orchard Trail in the east, abandoned railways provide the basis for the creation of one the most iconic trails in the United States.
1840 – The Michigan Central Railroad was completed from Detroit to Kalamazoo.
1869 – The Kalamazoo South Haven Railroad company was formed.
1870 – The Michigan Air Line Railroad, owned by the Michigan Central Railroad, was completed from Niles in the west to Richmond in the east as a short line from Chicago to Buffalo.
1871 – The Kalamazoo South Haven Railroad company was sold to The Michigan Central Railroad.
1937 – Passenger service from Kalamazoo to South Haven ceased.
1970 – All rail services between Kalamazoo and South Haven and between Jackson and Niles ceased.
1990-2000 – The remainder of the Michigan Air Line Railroad ceased operations.
Today the old Kalamazoo South Haven Railroad is now the Kal-Haven Trail and the original Michigan Air Line Railroad is now the Falling Waters Trail, Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park, Huron Valley Trail, Michigan Airline Trail, West Bloomfield Trail, Clinton River Trail and Macomb Orchard Trail. As new railways were built, groups like the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance worked to build trails on the ideally flat, abandoned rail corridors.
The old Michigan Central Railroad is still active as a part of Amtrak, serving southern locations from Detroit to Chicago.