The General Dacey Trail is a multi-use trail for walkers, runners and bicyclists. Started in 2006, the trail continues to expand with additional sections each year. Named after Major General Robert J. Dacey, engineer for the Lake Shelbyville Dam project in the 1960’s, the trail is part of a larger plan, in co-operation with the neighboring City of Sullivan and Shelby and Moultrie Counties, as well as the Illinois DNR and US Army Corps of Engineers. Long term plans call for a 170 mile trail system, linking several other trail systems with the Shelbyville portion.
The current sections of the trail exist behind and to the east of Forest Park in Shelbyville. One of the main trailheads can be found in Forest Park, behind the Scout Cabin (north of the pool complex). Follow the signs to the car park area.
There are full color trail map brochures located on the trail board at this area, as well as a full map on the trail board itself. Following the recommended route on the trail map, the first 2 miles are of oil and chipped limestone construction. Urban walkers and cyclists will love the construction of this trail. The trail itself is a good 10 feet wide or so through the entire course. There are also ample benches for resting at regular intervals and several bypass routes for those who want to shorten up the distances.
The first loop, of roughly 1 mile distance, has a few gentle grades, not requiring a huge amount of effort. We did spot a few deer to our left on the first leg of the loop, where the trail is adjacent to a cultivated field. At the far end of the first loop is what appears to be, and is marked on the trail map, as another portion of the trail to be extended in the future heading northward. Turning back towards the south from this first loop you can see that you’re walking along a ridge line, with a deep ravine to the east. This ravine, like all around Lake Shelbyville, eventually leads to the lake. Walking further south you can see stretches of the lake through the trees.
The first loop concludes and you find yourself entering the second loop, backtracking through the intersection (which has several picnic tables and open grassy areas BTW) of the two loops. The second loop continues along the ridgeline with the lake visible through the trees on your left (north). The trail continues to be oil and chip on this leg. About half way through the 2 mile loop we notices a well defined trodden earth path through the trees and ever the ones for a sidetrack, we jumped the trail proper and set off. Traveling some 75 yards or so down an embankment, we emerge onto a small sandy ‘beach’ at the edge of the lake, having descended some 50 or 60 feet. A nice diversion, looking at rocks and taking in a vista of the lake itself. Passing straight through this area we found a similar trail heading back up to the trail proper, albeit with a very steep grade (the sidetrack was not for the physically challenged, stay on the trail proper if so).
Back on the trail proper, we came to the end of the second loop and a sign touting a scenic overlook, just shy of the 2 mile mark. This ‘down and back’ section of the trail leads out to the end of a point, where you can find a couple benches and a great view into the center of Lake Shelbyville, a nice place to sit and have a drink of water before continuing on.
Venturing back up the overlook trail to the trail proper, we find ourselves on the return of the second loop, with a few gentle turns, a couple of ascents requiring mild effort and finally, back again to the intersection where we entered.
We were starting to run short on time and decided we’d put a 1/2 mile or so on the southward leading leg of the trail. The start of this leg is back at the parking area. The trail surface changes to a finely crushed agricultural lime on earth. Much more forgiving on ankles and legs than the oil and chip surface of the first two loops. We continued on, behind a ball diamond and around a gentle bend to the three mile mark. Decidedly out out of time for this trip, we turned back pledging to return at a later date and exploring the rest of the trail.
All in all, difficulty on this trail I’d rate as easy, given that you stay on the trail and don’t sidetrack. There are a few fairly gentle grades to ascend, but certainly nothing a walker of just about any condition could accomplish. The trail is extremely manicured and very well maintained. If you’re looking for trodden earth, in the brush, trail hiking this trail is probably going to leave you wanting. For a more urban hiking experience though, without the underbrush, mud and bugs this trail is excellent! Certainly an all weather treat and perfect for family groups, especially those with little ones and as my wife pointed out, the surface would make pushing a stroller a breeze.
There are several events held on the trail, including 5K trail runs and candlelight walks. Check the General Dacey Trail website for a complete trail map and details.