Trail History and Features

at Katy Trail State Park

Katy Trail State Park offers a unique opportunity for people of all ages and interests. Whether you are a bicyclist, hiker, nature lover or history buff, the trail offers opportunities for recreation, a place to enjoy nature and an avenue to discover the past.

Katy Trail State Park is built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (better known as the Katy). When the railroad decided to cease operation on its route from Machens in St. Charles County to Sedalia in Pettis County in 1986, it presented the chance to create an extraordinary recreational opportunity -- a long-distance hiking and bicycling trail that would run almost 200 miles across the state.

The opportunity for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to acquire the right-of-way was made possible by the National Trails System Act, which provides that railroad corridors no longer needed for active rail service can be banked for future transportation needs and used on an interim basis for recreational trails. Because of a generous donation by the late Edward D. "Ted" Jones, the department was able to secure the right-of-way and construct the trail. In 1991, the Union Pacific Railroad donated to the state an additional 33 miles of rail corridor from Sedalia to east of Clinton. Additional purchases and donations have been added. Today, Katy Trail State Park is open for 240 miles from Machens to Clinton and is operated by the Department of Natural Resources as part of the state park system.

The trail allows users to travel through some of the most scenic areas of the state. The majority of the trail closely follows the route of the Missouri River so hikers and bicyclists often find themselves with the river on one side and towering bluffs on the other. The trail travels through many types of landscapes including dense forests, wetlands, deep valleys, remnant prairies, open pastureland and gently rolling farm fields. In the spring, the trail is brightened with flowering dogwood and redbud, while the fall is colored with the rich reds and oranges of sugar maple, sumac and bittersweet.

With so many types of habitats, wildlife is abundant, especially birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, robins, orioles and many types of woodpeckers are common. Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures are often seen soaring above the trail, and bald eagles are common in the winter. Because of its location along the Missouri River flyway, migrating birds and waterfowl can be seen frequently. Watch for great blue herons, sandpipers, Canada geese and belted kingfishers.

Katy Trail State Park also takes users through a slice of rural history as it meanders through the small towns that once thrived along the railroad corridor. From the area known as "Missouri’s Rhineland" that portrays the heritage of the German migrants to the historic town of Rocheport that dates from before the Civil War, these towns reflect the rich heritage of Missouri. These communities make great places to stop and explore during a ride on the trail.

Although the scenery often changes, the trail remains fairly level and constant as it meanders through the countryside. Trailheads, which provide parking areas and other amenities, are located periodically along the trail. Many communities also offer services to trail users.

The section of trail between St. Charles and Boonville has been designated as an official segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and the entire trail is part of the American Discovery Trail. The trail also has been designated as a Milennium Legacy Trail.

For more information about the trail, call the Department of Natural Resources toll free at 800-334-6946 (voice) or 800-379-2419 (TDD) or e-mail.