About the Ride
From Highway 71 until Tunnel #1 is the most challenging uphill climb. Be aware that the grade may be only to to three percent, but it lasts almost three miles! The trail changes flavor from a wetland/farmland east of Kendall to tall dense tree growth west of the village. You will cross the Baraboo River one last time. A few miles further west you will cross over a local dirt road on an impressively tall bridge. Pay attention to the ground on both sides of the trail. During construction of the railroad, the grade needed to be leveled to allow the trains the traction and power to pull the heavy loads uphill and the ability to brake to stop heavily burdened trains on the downhill sections. As the terrain's elevation changes, the rail bed needed to either be built up or dug out of the earth to keep the grade constant.
The first sign that you are approaching Tunnel #1 is that the trail will become a carved out valley in the rock walls. Just a few dozen feet before the east end of the tunnel, a restored brakeman warning structure looms high above the trail. This wooden structure was built for the train brake-man who would ride on top of the train cars. Because the tunnel was designed and built ot just fit the largest train car, beingo n top of the train in the tunnel was something to definitely avoid.
Each of the three tunnels has its own personality, each being constructed differently with the entrances carved into the surrounding rock. Fewer stone blockes were needed to strengthnen the entrances because the natural rock terrain was able to provide the needed suport. The entrances to this tunnel are always a favorite with most people stopping short to take photographs. The internal walls are natural rock carved roughly and unevenly providing the visitor with an impression of the tremendous work involved to create this masterpiece. Thus tunnel is only 1,680 feet in length and the driest of the three. If you get the chance to drive your vehicle in this area make sure you turn south off of Highway 71 on County Road V and drive over Tunnel #1. You will be impressed by the differences in the terrain from the dense woods alongside the trail to the farming area along the road above the tunnel.
Watch for a marker approximately a mile west of the tunnel on the right. A signpost indicates the spot where the steam engine powered trains would stop for a water fill and to load and unload some of their goods. A picnic table is located here to provide a great resting spot.
As you continue your trek west on the trail, you will find the trail is primarily downhill except for an incline to cross the bridge over Highway 71. Eight bridges to cross the Kickapoo River and its many tributaries are found between the highway 71 crossing and the Village of Wilton. Downtown Wilton will greet you with a restored caboose.
The Elroy Sparta Trail between the Villages of Kendall and Wilton is 9 Miles Long. This section of the trail may be bicycled either direction, but be aware a drop of 236 feet in elevation will make riding westbound slightly easier.
Excerpt from "Elroy Sparta Trail Guidebook" by Bob Sobie avaliable at any of the Trail Heads