While fishing the lower section of the Kankakee River State Park it's hard to miss these large limestone bridge abutments rising up from the river just downstream of Warner Bridge. To me they've become iconic landmarks of this stretch of river. There are five of them total and while they provide great fishing structure, current seams, and ambush points for smallmouth, they have a sort of ancient ruin-like appearance, or at least historic intrigue. Up close the masonry is impressive, considering how long they've remained in such a harsh environment. They’re built from native limestone with a few junipers shooting out from impossible spots up high.

Another thing, there's no bridge connecting them. So I knew that they were intended for an old railway which was never completed, but I've always wondered about the details. I did a little research and it turns out that they were built in 1871 for the short-lived Decatur and State Line Railway, which would have connected Decatur to Chicago. It’s surprising how little I could find on the Railroad or the unfinished bridge. Most of the information looks to be based on hearsay and foggy accounts. This seems to be a theme in Kankakee River history and I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing. I probably hear and read more legends than history from the area.

During the Civil War, railroads proved their importance in their ability to cut inland. Unlike waterways and canals, rails had been transporting materials and passengers that would build towns across dry land, over the prairie. “The West” or “Northwest” as it [the Midwest] was called then was part of a resulting explosion in railroad construction. Unfortunately, for the Decatur and State Line Railway, the Great Chicago Fire took place later in the same year the bridge was being built across the river. Funding from financiers dropped and the Decatur and State Line folded, while bigger players like Illinois Central and The Wabash Railroad continued on. I’m still searching for the rest of the story.

So we’re left with these giant stone structures that, if connected, could have built towns. Instead, they provide some pretty neat scenery and food for thought. Sometimes it isn’t just about the fishing.

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