August 19, 2003
Franklin and Muskego Recreational Trails -- VIEW MAP
Beginning Mileage: 1107.6
Ending Mileage: 1120.9
Total Miles Traveled: 13.3
A couple weeks ago, my friend Isaac mentioned to me that had been on a bicycle trail in Muskego. I remembered having seen a trail out that way in my past travels, but I had never been on it before. I also remembered that Franklin had a trail that probably connected with the Muskego trail -- my intuition later proved to be correct -- so I decided to seek out the Franklin trail.
After driving around in circles for a little while, I finally found one "end" of the City of Franklin Bicycle/Hiking Trail on 116th and Swiss Streets, in the St. Martins area of Franklin. I went north on the trail, which crosses St. Martins Road, Forest Home Avenue, a subdivision street, and ends on Rawson Avenue -- a whopping 9/10ths of a mile. But I did notice another "branch" of the trail a short distance north of where I had started on the trail, which headed west. So, after reaching the northern terminus at Rawson Avenue, I rode back to this "branch" and headed west, which took me to the Muskego Recreational Trail. On the way, I crossed Forest Home Avenue (again), and "South North Cape Road". North Cape Road doubles as the Milwaukee-Waukesha County line, and the Franklin-Muskego town (city) line.
The first stretch of trail in Muskego is pretty secluded all the way to Durham Drive, although you can see an apartment complex on McShane Road from the trail. There is a branch off the trail that (I assume) leads to McShane Road. Otherwise, all you see is woods on the north, and farm fields on the south. And the power lines...
Past Durham Drive, the trail crosses a couple of subdivision roads, and the next major road crossing is Woods Road. This crossing is at a sharp angle, and also comes out of a gravel parking lot. There is curb on the east side of Woods Road, with only a narrow entrance to cross the roadway. I almost missed it! West of Woods Road, the trail again crosses a couple subdivision streets, and the next major road crossing is Lannon Drive. This is followed by Pioneer Road, where the trail shares the right-of-way with the driveway for Horn Park. The trail begins to curve southwest right before Racine Avenue, where there is a Culver's restaurant (no, I didn't stop).
The trail crosses an industrial park road, and then another subdivision road before the "developed" part of the trail ends at Woods Road. The right-of-way continues to Hillendale Drive as the Muskego Equestrian and Recreation Trail, but I found that this part of the trail is really not suited to ten-speeds!! Instead of taking the trail straight back, I followed parallel Janesville Road back to Moorland Road, which now connects with Durham Drive at Woods Road, and I followed Durham Drive back to the trail. Moorland Road actually has a paved trail that runs alongside it from Durham Drive at McShane Road to Grange Avenue at least, maybe farther. Maybe I will have to find out for myself!
History of the Trail
The trail was originally the right-of-way of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company (TMER&L), an interurban railroad in southeastern Wisconsin that radiated north, south, west, and southwest from its namesake city. The railroad was abandoned in the late 1930s after a couple of failed attempts to save the railroad, whose owners decided that the electric utility business was a much better business than the railroad business. The company later became the Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO), which explains the power lines that follow the trail for its entire length. Today the company is known as "WeEnergies". (Which, personally, I think is a stupid name -- try saying it as one word -- but that's a whole discussion unto itself... Besides, they spent a lot of money to come up with that name!)
This section of the trail was part of the southwest line that came through Hales Corners to St. Martins, where there was a junction (the aforementioned "branch"). The line that continued south along 116th Street ended in Burlington. Parts of this line in Waukesha and Racine Counties have been converted to trail use as well. The line to the west continued on to Big Bend and Mukwonago before ending in East Troy. The Mukwonago-East Troy segment of the line is still in operation, as an electric interurban railway! Currently, the line is operated by the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum.
These rights-of-way had been used solely as "utility roads" for years, until a few years ago, when the municipalities decided that they would make good recreational trails, being very level and fairly well-maintained by WEPCO all these years. The Muskego Trail has been around for a while, but the Franklin section must be a more recent addition, since several of the signs along the route have the new "We" logo on them, as opposed to "Wisconsin Electric" on the Muskego signs.
The trail is paved with crushed limestone (or limestone chips), which makes for a very smooth riding surface. This is just like the trails in Racine County that I rode on as a teenager. The trails are mostly level, with some gentle grades both uphill and downhill along the way. The trail deviates from the old TMER&L at Forest Home Avenue north of St. Martins Road, since the old right-of-way crosses the road at a sharp angle, as well as a new subdivision street. Additionally, 60 years of road changes have removed all traces of grade crossings or bridges, so the trail has to change elevation substantially to meet Forest Home Avenue at both crossings and North Cape Road. The trail also shares the right-of-way with someone's driveway at St. Martins Road.
The last section of trail I was on, the "Equestrian" section, is basically little more than a dirt path with a few stones in it. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these same stones were part of the ballast for the railroad! Hopefully, some day this part of the trail will be brought up to standards with the rest of the Franklin-Muskego trail.
By the way, I did a couple of web searches and found no mention of this trail ANYWHERE. Maybe my website will be the first?? I even checked WisDOT's bicycling page, and this trail isn't even on their map!!
Click Here for a map of the Franklin and Muskego Trails