Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Riverside trail includes S-shaped bridge

Banbury Bridge. Photo courtesy City of Eau Claire.
Map, Eau Claire River Route.
Day hikers can walk across a unique S-shaped bridge on a short urban trail in downtown Eau Claire, Wis.

The 0.6-mile round trip Eau Claire River Route – often referred to on maps as a side trail of the Chippewa River State Trail – runs alongside and crosses its namesake. Its connections with the main Chippewa River State Trail allow for quick access to various parks.

Park at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library then cross South Dewey Street, heading east onto the paved trail. Breaks through the trees allow for views of the Eau Claire River, which in this stretch runs over a series of cascades.

The Eau Claire River is one of the Chippewa Rivers’ major tributaries, flowing for 40 miles out of the east. Two nearby dams back it up into reservoirs.

With the elevation changes on the river, a variety of trees can be spotted along the way, making for a colorful autumn walk. Eau Claire is officially a Tree City USA, and a walk along this trail proves why.

In short order, the trail curves northeast and crosses the river on a trestle S bridge that originally served the railroad. The bridge offers great views of the river and of Banbury Place, which sits on the river’s north side.

Now a complex of apartments, retail shops and offices, Banbury Place used to be the site of the Uniroyal tire plant that before closing its doors during the early 1990s was the city’s largest employer. More than 1350 people worked at the 1.9 million-square-foot plant. The complex stretches a quarter-mile in length.

Upon reaching the Chippewa River State Trail on the river’s north side, turn back. The Chippewa trail runs alongside busy Galloway Street and while pleasant for bicyclists, for hikers it’s more akin to a sidewalk.

If you wish to continue, however, going left/west on the Chippewa trail takes you to beautiful Phoenix Park; you also can turn it into a loop by heading left/south at North Dewey Street and heading to the library. Going right/east on the trail offers access to Boyd Park and the Fairway Trail which leads to Archery Park; just past Banbury Place, turn right/south onto the trail that crosses that river and via a wood-chip path enters Boyd Park.

Learn more about Chippewa Valley day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of the Chippewa Valley guidebook.