Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Minnesota River Trail - The River Bottoms from Indian Mounds to 9 mile creek crossing

(From 2015, republished 2020 since it's had some updates but it's not all current. Sorry!)

The Minnesota river trail is going to change. Major parts will become a paved trail. This means a lot more people will appreciate the river, but the trail many love to run and ride is going to change.
So I’m glad Ben and I got to ride some of the best parts — on a sunny and pleasant November Saturday.

The trail we took is part of a large system along the Minnesota river (save JPEG locally to view). Our Long Meadow Lake section is at the top left of this map:
RiverBottomNov2015 5
Basically we did the bottom half of the Long Meadow Lake Unit Trails. Note the blue in the picture below. That’s important! If you end up on the wrong side of the marsh you usually can’t get back to your entry point. So be careful, the trails are not well marked!
RiverBottomNov2015 6
The MORC trail map Google Version provides the best overview for a mountain biker:
MORC map
For Minneapolis and Saint Paul residents the traditional approach to the trail is to take bikes on light rail to the Mall of America, then ride a short distance to the yellow/orange entry trails towards the upper right of the screenshot (enters near Bass Ponds Parking, 44.845976, -93.232640).

Unfortunately Center Point Energy is replacing a natural gas pipeline along the “bluff trail”, so we entered at the Blue “A” icon by Mound Springs Park, just south of Indian Mounds Elementary (11th Ave S, 44°49’23.6”N 93°15’33.1”W). From there we road to 9 mile creek, marked by the blue sailboat icon. You can see our route on Strava.
Strava
The Minnesota Valley Long Meadow Lake Unit Trail Map is a good guide to other entry points. The Old Cedar Ave parking area on that map, unfortunately, is cut off by construction. We really entered at the best site available today. From this point downstream the trail is closed.

It’s easy to park on the street by the entrance here — there’s lots of room in November. There’s a sign saying  you can also park at the school nearby.
RiverBottomNov2015 17
From this point the trail descends smoothly and joins a creek. We stayed to the left at the first fork…
RiverBottomNov2015 16
When you’re zooming down it’s very tempting to just try to run a rock pile put in place to manage erosion. These are not friendly rocks. They are rough concrete irregular slabs that are very painful to land on. I recommend walking.
RiverBottomNov2015 15
That’s about it for the tricky part of this entrance. The trail is pretty easy to pick up further down the stream.

The trail has lots of forks and branches; heading upstream there are many entrance trails joining from the right. These can be confusing on the return — it was useful to be using Strava so we could retrace our trail. Parts of the trail are narrow and seem almost natural — I bet this was an Indian walking route once. There are also bridges and ramps and wood sections, some very old and some brand new. There are concrete and steel picnic tables in the woods that could be 30-40 years old.
It’s a multi-use and bidirectional trail, so be extra-polite to walkers and runners and watch for oncoming bikes. It’s very pretty in the Fall, and presumably year round …
RiverBottomNov2015 13
I think this might be the treacherous trail branch point a friend warned me of — go right and there’s no way back to where we started from “On the return, where the the blue/green trails split, there is a critical branch. If you miss this turn on the return route - easy to do if you ignore the trail going left away from the river and continue straight - you will NOT be able to get back to where you started from”.

You’ll come across this when you return, not long after reentering from the parking lot by 35E.
RiverBottomNov2015 4
The Long Meadow Lake Trails end at 35W. But don’t stop there. Continue along the river, following a dirt service road. If you stay by the river it turns back into a trail. After a mile or so you come to one of the gems of the Twin Cities —- the famous 9 mile creek crossing:
RiverBottomNov2015 8
As you can see there are two ways to cross. One is by raft, the other, upstream a bit, is by tree trunk with added steps: [In 2020 this was lost years ago - tragically removed by bad people.]
RiverBottomNov2015 10
Yes. Someone did this. Presumably many someones. The raft is a serious piece of well maintained kit with heavy ropes. I don’t think it’s Fish and Wildlife, though they must tolerate it. It’s a legend and one must bow in respect. I took the ferry over the creek then carried my bike over the tree. I know people who ride the tree and rails, but I do not think I will ever have those skills.

Then we headed back. Next time I’ll do more loops, this time I used Strava to confirm I was retracing my route correctly.

I’m looking forward to going further next time. In winter there are Fat Bike meetups along this trail…

PS. When I was putting this blog post together something caught my eye where the stream we entered by meets the river:
Swimming hole
That little round circle, on close magnification, may have a sort of jumping board on it. I think it’s a local swimming hole…

Update 5/24/2020: I added some modern maps to my 2015 post on the river bottoms. They really help out.

Update 11/25/2020: Further downstream, at the Nature reserve by 494, you can take the 494 bike path over the MN River and across Gun Club Lake, then on the south side of Gun Club take a dirt path exit and double back over the lake under the bridge and catch the Mendota Trail. Some images here from Facebook, and a description from there ...

If you're coming from Bloomington on the 494 bridge ped/bike trail, the key is to take the natural surface trail to the right/south immediately after the concrete bridge bridge railing ends. The first part is steep, then it goes under the bridge, then it curves back along (under) the edge of the eastbound 494 elevated roadway. It's more of a 2-track access trail in this area. You proceed to ride under the edge of the bridge until you get to the old MN River channel, and then turn left (to Cedar) or right (to Mendota).






Sunday, June 21, 2020

MSP Family Outing to MN Nice Ice Cream (20 miles)

For my family's annual Father's Day family bike ride my son picked a trip to MN Nice Cream. It's roughly 20 miles round trip with a break in the middle:

(The starting point on public map and link isn't exactly our home.)

The trip is entirely on bicycle trails or quiet streets. Note the crossover Stone Arch and then down to Nicollet island then taking the short gravel trails to Boom Island.

There's an alternative route that takes the bicycle trail on the "east" side of the river. The trick there is that there's an illegal but now heavily used path under 35 W by the rail yards that connects Stone Arch bridge to the UMN river path:


Sooner or later that use path will get either closed/enforced or made legal, but for now it's in a happy limbo state.

Update: on the return trip a tired family member and ominous storm clouds required this shortcut to the above 35 W underpass route:

This was a surprisingly quite and pleasant route -- but 3rd Ave NE bike path is almost unrideable. Just take the quiet street.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A 26 mile mountain and road bike minneapolis ride

I haven't done this ride, but sharing it for future reference from a Facebook river bottoms group.

Some times the river trail will be underwater in places.


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Saint Paul Mendota Heights and Minnehaha Park

This is 18.2 miles per Google and has some great river views and some contrasting landscapes. The Mendota/62 bridge bike trail is a bit on the narrow side but not bad.

We originally planned to take the Big Rivers Trail to Mendota but it was washed out. The other alternative would have been Lilydale to Saint Paul but it was flooded. This was plan C but it was a happy reroute. I'd do it again.

Google Maps Route



Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saint Paul to Hastings MN

It doesn't show up on Google Maps, but I'm told it's possible to ride trail from St Paul to Hastings MN. These descriptions are combined from a local cycling FB Group and my own experience. At the moment the best starting point for many people would be Kaposia Landing Fields. In 2021 (see below) there's a connector all the way to Saint Paul.

Dedicated bike path along river to 65th & Concord, then it goes along next to Concord to Kaposia Landing trailhead. 

Follow the (MRT) trail some miles, eventually turning on Cahill, which takes you to Inver Grove Trail (road). Follow the bike trail along there past the Pine Bend School, & the trail turns away from the road again past the RR trestle. [easy to spot because there's an attractive awning over the trail to protect from train debris] ... After that, the trail follows Courthouse Blvd. a bit before turning off on to a dedicated, removed bike path again ... 
... the current trail ends near the beginning of Pine Bend Trail (which is a road, not a bike trail - nice shoulder, very low traffic). You can take Pine Bend for a mile or so ...  turn Left on Fahey Ave (gravel, may not be signed or may say archery range). Take that a few hundred meters to the Fahey Ave Trailhead (well signed, cars parked, cyclists gathering, Q248+F3). From there follow the trail to Hastings. (The trail does not appear on Google Bicycle routes, I don't think Google is updating those.)

WARNING

These are lovely bike trails, but the Kaposia trails cross roadways. Drivers may turn left or right off Concord without looking for pedestrians, much less a cyclist heading downhill at 30-45mph. (Like someone who didn't see spot the road crossing until they passed in front of a car that turned abruptly left without signaling but a miss is a good as a mile they say).

Another member shared their Strava map (125 miles - beyond me):


Another one:


By comparison here are the parts Google knows about:

There's a trail from the red marker at bottom to the heart icon in Hastings but Google doesn't know anything about the trails that tracks the green space to the east of 52.

Update 9/20/2020

A friend and I finally did this route. We started from the Harriet Island riverboat parking, it was about 30 miles each way. 

The usual start of the route is to go up Wabasha to Concord then join the river trails by Kaposia landing. From that point until our lunch at The Onion in Hastings we did not travel with a single car.

This is a great trail, but in 2021 it will get much better. There will soon be a bicycle trail, traffic free, from Harriet Island park to Hastings (not to mention trails through Lilydale upstream that track along the Minnesota river, and trails from Hastings downstream [1]). The problem of the St Paul airport will be solved.

The new trail, unopened but almost complete, was tracked by a scofflaw friend of mine:


Look out Hastings, hordes of cyclists will be invading and emptying your restaurants.

- fn -

[1] Local cyclist: "From Hastings there’s a trail that goes over the Highway 61 bridge and goes out to Prescott. There’s also a trail that goes south from Hastings over the Vermillion River and heads back West along the South side of the Vermillion River."



Saturday, December 28, 2019

Minnesota Inline Skate Club (MISC) trails page: Minneapolis and St Paul inline skating trails

The Minnesota Inline Skate Club site has been revised and republished. It's now relatively mobile friendly and uses https. The club is smaller than it was in the 90s, but there's generally a good turnout for the Monday social skates that usually start in May and end in October.

There's a new menu based Trails list. For example- here's the Rush Creek Regional Trail listing. It's a great resource for skaters and cyclists too.