Itawamba County is seeing more and more bicyclists this season due to the fact that the 2,058-mile Underground Railroad Bicycle Route travels through the entire county from south to north. Starting in Mobile, Alabama, downriver from Itawamba County the route ends in Ontario, Canada.
The route is the result of three years of research and planning. Adventure Cycling Association, North America's largest bicycling organization, and the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health,unveiled the route last year. A breakthrough in both historically-infused adventure travel and active-living outreach to the African-American community, the UGRR promises to introduce people of all cultural backgrounds to the adventure and health benefits of cycling and bicycle travel.
"Cyclists can ride from the Deep South all the way to Ontario, Canada — nearly 2,100 miles," says Carla Majernik, Adventure Cycling's Director of Routes and Mapping. "Or they can take short rides on any portion of the route, which is filled with historic Underground Railroad stops and lots of excellent cycling through beautiful scenery."
This unique bicycle route honors the bravery of freedom seekers and those that provided shelter, by following the most fabled trek to freedom in American history. According to Adventure Cycling, more people than ever are traveling by bicycle and the UGRR, with its poignant stories and vibrant historical sites, adds new depth to the experience. It should appeal to history lovers looking for a great ride.
Starting in Mobile, Alabama, the route winds north along the Alabama and Tombigbee River valleys into Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, before reaching Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, and its end-point in Owen Sound, Ontario on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, the final destination for many freedom seekers. Besides the lush green scenery and the many small towns the route passes through, a host of museums, historic parks, and visitor centers bring the history of this remarkable period alive.
"We've all heard the story of slaves who escaped to freedom," says Dennis Coello, a veteran photographer and writer who recently rode and photographed the route for Adventure Cycling, "but here's a chance to feel that story — and to experience a continent along the way."
The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route was created with generous financial support from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Bikes Belong, and the members of Adventure Cycling. Sally Jewell, the President and CEO of REI (America's leading outdoor gear retailer) says, "The Underground Railroad Route is a culturally engaging experience that links communities of cultural and historical significance with individuals, families, and cycling enthusiasts of all abilities. As a company that aspires to engage more individuals in human-powered recreation, we are proud to support the route."
To learn more about the route, visit www.adventurecycling.org/ugrr. A most excellent full color brochure on the route is also available online in PDF format.
The Itawamba Historical Society is excited about this route and welcomes bicycling visitors to Itawamba County, Mississippi.
Photo by Adventure Cycling Association/Dennis Coello
Map by Adventure Cycling Association