King Louis XV of France, that is! French colonists gave this name to the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail (KCT) in the early 1700s. More than 300 years later, the route is still traveled in Southwestern Illinois. In this region, the Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kaskaskia and Meramec Rivers converge with the Mississippi and throughout history provided reliable transportation for exploration, settlement and trade, with overland trails used to access interior lands beyond and between the rivers.
?The KCT can be traced to American Indian people around 11,000 BC whose migrations created the trail for economic trade, government and social/religious purposes. These first inhabitants over time built large civilizations with mound cities along the trail. Their use of the trail continued into historic periods, introducing the route to the first French explorers and colonists in the late 1600s. When the French established permanent settlements at Kaskaskia and Cahokia in 1699, they named these villages after the local Illini people. These colonial villages and the overland KCT, led to the establishment of other forts and settlements over the next 100 years along the east side of the Mississippi River Valley. This first road spawned many routes for expanded growth that led to Illinois becoming the 21st state in 1818, with Kaskaskia serving as the first state capital.
Today, the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The 60-mile long auto tour route connects visitors with many opportunities to discover the region’s diverse heritage. Explore the history of native cultures, French colonial roots, Revolutionary War era settlement, early Illinois statehood, westward expansion, European immigration and agricultural significance along the Trail. The alluvial bottomlands and dramatic bluffs of the scenic Middle Mississippi River Valley uniquely shape the natural landscape of the Trail. Rolling oak-hickory forests, prairies and farmlands including quaint, historic villages and rural back roads make this 60-mile journey one you will never forget.