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Bloomington, Indiana usually brings to mind college football, basketball, and bicycle racing, to name a few. However, it also is home to a couple of rail trails that deserve mention: the B Line and the Clear Creek Trails. The first of these, the B Line, was at one time part of the Monon Railroad; its conversion into a rail trail has taken much work and dedication, and it still contains some incomplete parts. The Clear Creek Trail branches off from the B Line, and is a continuous 2 1/2 mile paved, multi-use surface.
To better appreciate how these rail trails wound up where they are today, go back to the first settlement of Bloomington, in the early 1800s; there were good water sources and the site was close to where much of the state’s population resided at that time. President James Monroe proposed the building of a seminary here, which later became I. U. In the 1850s, the Monon Railroad arrived, one of only a few north-south carriers. The Monon’s main line stretched from Chicago to Louisville, including Bloomington. A second Monon line served the Michigan City to Indianapolis route, and now hosts the well-known Monon Rail Trail in Indianapolis.
Today, as a trail, the open portion of the B Line starts in downtown Bloomington, and if you go on a Saturday in summer, you can experience the farmers’ market and see artisans’ works. Restaurants and museums lie within a short walk from the trail, and the courthouse, built with Indiana limestone, is also visible from here. Plaques and signs help you to appreciate early Bloomington history and structures. There are whimsical artworks along the way, as well as variable pavement styles adding to the overall landscape design. Total trail length so far is just under three miles, part paved, part unpaved. Currently, there is a gap in between the finished sections, but don’t let that deter you. Those completed portions are worth the effort.
The Clear Creek Trail, south of Bloomington’s center, splits off from the B Line Trail and travels northwest for 2.5 miles, weaving through mostly rural farmscapes and woods. Relics of the quarry it once served are sometimes visible along the path. A restored 1887 railroad bridge spans Clear Creek; the bridge was originally built across Big Pine Creek in Warren County, Indiana. Both of these trails cross major streets along their routes, but the intersections are well marked ahead and at the crossings themselves.
As one might expect, Bloomington and the surrounding region offer a number of opportunities and places of interest to explore. The Indiana University campus is home to various arts, museums, and sports venues, including a fine arts gallery, Glenn Black Archaeology Lab and Museum, and Kirkwood Observatory. In addition, the Indiana Geological Survey’s offices are here with its vast informative research on everything from possible petroleum-containing strata to where “Indiana” was 400 million years ago.
Bloomington has its share of festivals, too, including a Taste of Bloomington, the Pride Film Festival, Arts Fair on the Square, Chocolate Festival, Indiana Heritage Quilt Show, Theta Antique Show—and these are just some of them!
The town of Nashville lies east of Bloomington on SR 46, and close by is the Steele State Historic Site. T. C. Steele was an Indiana landscape painter who, with Ottis Adams and others, helped establish the Nashville area as an artists’ haven. In addition, Brown County State Park, McCormick’s Creek State Park, the 13,000-acre Charles Deam Wilderness, and Lake Monroe are a short distance away. Whether your passion is fall colors, Bill Monroe Bluegrass music, hiking, equestrian trails, covered bridges, boating, fishing, exploring an ancient earthquake fault (in the Deam Wilderness), or just a quiet rail trail, it can all be found in this area.