A walk in the parks
One of Eau Claire’s newest parks, Phoenix Park sits at the junction of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, which makes it one of the best places to kick off a leisurely three-hour float down the Chippewa River. It’s also home to the downtown farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It’s a great place to just go to people watch, even if you’re not planning on buying anything (which I wouldn’t recommend — a lot of the produce is cheaper than some grocery stores). Phoenix Park also hosts Volume One’s Sounds Like Summer concert series, which features great local artists and bands every Thursday evening.
BIG FALLS COUNTY PARK:
The prettiest section of the Eau Claire River is the main attraction of Big Falls County Park. It’s a 135-acre park that features a bunch of large outcroppings of metamorphic rock, creating a network of small waterfalls. There are beaches available for those hot summer months, and the water is generally shallow enough so that you can wade around the entire area.
How to get there: From Eau Claire, take CTH Q east off US HWY 53 for 9 miles and turn right on CTH N to the parking lot.
LOWES CREEK COUNTY PARK:
Lowes Creek is a sprawling, 250-acre park located just a few miles south of the city. For those more inclined to the outdoors, the park offers hiking, biking and skiing trails. There are mountain biking trails for all levels of riders, from beginner to advanced. Lowes Creek is actually the park where I did some off-road biking for the first time, and it was pretty exhilarating. A parking pass is required, but you can get around it by … actually, just be a good person and pay the three bucks.
How to get there: Take US HWY 93 south of Eau Claire to Golf Road, turn right, go 1.5 miles to South Lowes Creek Road, turn left and proceed 1.5 miles to the park entrance.
Carson Park is less a park and more an adventure waiting to happen. There is so much stuff to do in Carson Park that it could fill three weekends. It’s probably best known for hosting Blugold football games, but it’s also home to the Eau Claire Express, a minor league baseball team that’s part of the Northwoods League. For $6, make sure to check out a game. Otherwise, there’s a miniature train tour that explains the history of the park and the surrounding area, the Chippewa Valley Museum (including a ye olde soda shoppe!), statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox and a number of playgrounds to help you swing back to your childhood.
ROD AND GUN PARK:
At a small 36 acres, Rod and Gun Park is one of Eau Claire’s hidden gems. It’s located directly adjacent to Carson Park, sharing shoreline of Half Moon Lake, but it’s less known. The park is unique in that it’s essentially made up of eight or nine ponds connected by small streams. And because the area sits on a perched water table — in which the water table is higher than the regional average — the park has several surface springs that feed the ponds. Besides creating some beautiful scenery, it makes for great frog catching.