Monday, August 9, 2021—Island Line Rail Trail

It seems as if our “lazy” mornings are lasting longer and longer. It was mid-morning today before we were up, about, and out the door. We have fulfilled all our must-see items, but cycling the Island Line Rail Trail remained. Kay and I drove to the trailhead where she was to pick me up, and entered the address in the GPS. And then, we drove to the trailhead where she dropped me off. Today’s ride would be from Leddy Park Trailhead to Hero Island and return to Causeway Bike Path Parking Trailhead, a total of about 17 miles.

The Island Line Rail Trail, a Rail Trail Hall of Fame trail, also known as the Colchester Causeway, is a 14-mile rail trail in and near Burlington, Vermont. It comprises the Burlington Bike Path, Colchester Park, and the Allen Point Access Area on South Hero Island. The trail follows the route of the Island Line railroad, built by Rutland Railroad in 1901. Passenger service on the Rutland’s Island Line (and on the entire Rutland RR system) ended after a strike by employees in late June, 1953. A second set of strikes, in 1960 and 1961, brought about the complete closure of the Rutland Railroad. The final trains ran on September 25, 1961. In 1963, the state of Vermont purchased the abandoned, but not torn-up, Rutland Railroad lines from Burlington to Rutland, Bennington, Hoosick Junction and Bellows Falls, leasing them to the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railway to resume freight service, but the state chose not to acquire and reopen the Island Line. Ultimately, all three swing bridges on the route were removed, but the roadbed on the heavily-built crushed granite causeway across the lake survived. The alignment along the shores of Lake Champlain from Burlington Union Station north to the causeway was converted to form the Burlington Bike Path, and later took the Island Line name when the causeway was reopened, with a seasonal bike ferry replacing the swing bridge in the northern portion of the causeway alignment.

The trail was heavily used today, and signage in the developed area was poor to non-existent, mainly because of construction and accompanying detours, reminding me of all the detours of the Razorback Greenway in Bentonville, Arkansas. The mostly finely-crushed granite surface made for excellent cycling. Views of Lake Champlain and moored sailboats were almost constant, except for the short segment of trail through a natural area.

Once on the actual causeway, there were surrounding breezes and lapping waves from Lake Champlain.The gap on the northern portion of the causeway resulted in a necessary stop, or turnaround point. However, the seasonal bike ferry was unloading passengers and bicycles for the short ferry around the gap. Because it was lunch time, there was a waiting line, and it took two more ferry trips before I was near the beginning of the queue. A $10 donation secured a roundtrip ticket on the oversized pontoon boat. Due to a 200-foot gap in the causeway, the organization Local Motion operates the Island Line Bike Ferry to shuttle cyclists across the gap, thus the “donation.” The return trip to meet Kay was into the breeze from Lake Champlain, and the headwind was a bit stronger than expected.

Kay was kindly waiting for me in the overflowing parking lot. had an adventurous morning herself exploring many of the shops in the waterfront area, filled with young families and college students from the University of Vermont.

A visit to Costco and a quiet evening in the hotel room watching the Great British Baking Show wrapped up our last full day in Vermont.

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