Go Claire

Chippewa State Trail

Graphic+by+Karl+Enghofer%2C+The+Spectator
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Go Claire

Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Story by Alex Zank, OP/Ed Editor

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It is Eau Claire’s built-in tour guide. It’s always there, even on the coldest winter morning, for anyone wishing to enjoy it. It gives the hardiest of travelers an opportunity to explore dozens of miles of western Wisconsin.

It, of course, is the Chippewa River State Trail.

The trail offers an avenue for safe and fun recreation throughout the city and beyond. The trailhead is in Phoenix Park, next to the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, and it continues into Durand.

It also connects to other trails, and once construction work attaches it to the Old Abe trail to the north, the entire Chippewa River Trail system will stretch 70 miles.

Senior Alana Jenkins said the biggest benefits of the trail are the safety and access to areas in the city it provides.

“You don’t have to combat vehicles,” she said.

In Town

The section winding through Eau Claire highlights some of the best parts of the city.

The already mentioned Phoenix Park is an excellent place to stop and admire the converging rivers. It’s also near the local shops to the north and south of the Eau Claire River. It also serves as a staging location for floaters in the summer months.

The section of trail heading east takes travelers along Banbury Place. This ex-factory now provides apartment and business space and hosts events like the Banbury Art Crawl in February.

To the west, the trail leads journeyers across the bridge at Phoenix Park. This spot offers a great view the river and parts of downtown during sunset. Immediately after the bridge the trail splits two ways.

If you continue straight you enter the Lakeshore Trail, which is technically separate from the Chippewa River State Trail.

This trail is roughly a two-mile stretch that takes recreators along Oxbow Pond and into Carson Park. The trail offers easy access to the baseball stadium, Paul Bunyan Logging Camp museum and plenty of spots along the lake to fish.

If you instead turn left at the bridge, the trail continues along the Chippewa River and takes you through Owen Park (a nice spot to play tennis) and eventually turns west, running parallel to Water Street.

Beyond Eau Claire

The Lakeshore Trail reconnects with the Chippewa River State Trail at another bridge that crosses the Chippewa River. From here, the trail takes you to a world beyond the city limits.

Eau Claire community member Jeremy Gragert said the scenery dramatically changes outside the city limits.

He takes the trail to Durand and sometimes Menomonie, and camps in Durand for overnight bike trips, a town he considers a perfect location for doing so.

“Durand is kind of a hidden place for most people,” he said. The campground is only about $5 a night and there is also a swimming pool to cool off in, he added.

“(Durand) is a nice reward for people on the trail.”

Along the trail is plenty of history as well. Gragert said. The trail runs along Porterville, an old logging town, and Caryville, which features a run-down gas station straight out of the 1940s or ‘50s.

The trail also runs along Tyrone, the site of a proposed nuclear power plant in the 1970s. Eau Claire students and others protested its construction, and it (obviously) was never built.

Bikers looking to trek outside of Eau Claire need to purchase a trail pass. This is enforced once you travel past the city limits. Gragert said people can buy passes at the bike shops on Water Street.

Whether you choose the trail for your daily commute to class, a dependable running route or the source of a day-long bike trip, it provides easy access to both places of interest and the best views of Eau Claire.

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