52 Greenbelt Walks Week 10: Our Favorite Walk, and a Beaver Too

March 10 We were out again on one of our favorite walks. We had been there 2 or 3 weeks ago and posted, but I wanted to show the walking route to my mom. We both agree it’s one of the most beautiful sections of the greenbelt. But what a difference a couple of weeks make. The Boise River’s flow had been increased to flood stage to avert larger problems later in the spring, culminating in the largest flows on this day. While we knew enough to stay away from the super fast river, we were faced with flooding challenges at every turn.

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March Walk #2
Plantation River neighborhood access trail to Willow Lane Athletic Complex. With side trip to playground. 3.39 miles.
Front pack. Jog stroller. Possibly bike accessible depending if you mind slightly rugged riding, but avoid snowy or muddy days. Parts of the trail that I normally would go on are closed in the winter to protect bald eagles. Starting in March/April you can make a longer loop through the protected area, reducing the backtracking you do. It was impossible on this day due to flooding.

Getting there by car: From State Street head south on Plantation River Road. It’s located about halfway between Pierce Park Road and Collister. A George’s Cycle shop is at this intersection. Follow Plantation River Road, pass the median, and continue about 1/4 mile into the neighborhood. On the left is a trail access path between two houses. Plantation River Road dead ends with a turn around a little further down, so you can drive on, turn around and park on the same side of the street as the trail.

This might seem like a strange place to start a walk if you don’t live in this neighborhood, but it is the closest river access to my house, and I’ve since come to really love it. You can park at Willow Lane Athletic Complex and do a similar loop, but I prefer starting at this spot near the Garden City river crossing. 

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Trail directions: The main entrance to the trail is an unassuming little thoroughfare located between two houses. Head down that path to reach the greenbelt and turn left. Walk the paved greenbelt trail all the way to Willow Lane Athletic Complex. You will pass the bike jump area. As you are passing the ball fields on the left, there is a large parking lot on the right. Go into the parking lot and head towards the far west corner where there is a sign that says “Enter Here”. Beyond it you will find a gravelly path.If the path is not covered in water, continue on to two utility houses. At the further building, the unpaved trail reconnects with the paved greenbelt. We had standing water, so we backtracked and took a different off-road trail that runs to the right of the main trail and takes you to the bike jump area.

Our Walk: Off  we set to show my mom this delightful little section of trail. She’d been through this area on her bike, but the off-road part of this loop is kind of obscure and off the beaten track. I had visited this section in February and it had been business as usual. Not this time. Notice from the map that we had to turn back once or twice due to flooding. The bridge over the river at the start of this route was entirely closed and inaccessible.

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Garden City River Crossing. Takes you to the South side of the river where the trail continues on to Glenwood Blvd.

We had to walk through water on the paved portion of the trail, and it was deep enough to get our feet wet. Bikes were fine, but walking through the water here was not for everyone. We saw several people turn back.

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We persevered with the wet feet and all and made it to the Athletic Complex. We went through the parking lot on the right and turned onto the unpaved section. It was not too far along that we came to standing water on the trail and had to turn back.

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But, not before we saw northern flickers, saw and heard the telltale calls of a red-winged blackbirds, and heard the singing of a black-billed magpie. All the bird singing was an indication that spring was getting ready to erupt around us and leave the dreariness of winter behind.

The first signs of new growth along the trail was another.

It was a beautiful spring-like day, and this was one of our first walks this year where we saw kids riding bikes and playing on the playground. When you get a beautiful day after weeks and months of the cold and dark, it draws people out there. And everyone is in a good mood. We even headed to the playground structure between some of the ball fields to let Jenas out of the backpack. There were no swings, her favorite, but she climbed the metal steps, and we slid on the slide together. So great to be outside.

Besides the flooding and the kids and the beautiful day, we were fortunate to see a sweet little pair of downy woodpeckers, busy cruising and pecking up and down the trunks of trees near the trail.  Downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker in north America. Both males and females have black and white wings and a white breast, with males sporting a little red patch on the back of their crowns. The females have no red patch. Downy woodpeckers are often heard before they are seen, drumming with their beaks on trees in search of food. These little guys are especially vocal in the spring and are common in city parks and other developed areas, so keep a look and a listen out.

Photo courtesy of Audubon

Besides seeing many birds we did see a little brown furry mink who peek-a-booed us behind a pile of rocks. We went in for a closer look, but he slipped away.

And check out who was up by the trail a few days earlier! This picture is not from my walk, but from my parents who saw this guy out at Ann Morrison Park a few days earlier! Apparently, the rising water is changing things for the beavers too and pushing them closer to the pathway.

I love this little section of greenbelt, and it’s been so interesting to be out there with the flooding and the changes it brings. I’ve stated it before, but hearing and seeing the power of the river at flood level is awesome and a bit intimidating. It’s a city greenbelt, but it’s still a little bit wild out there. Stay safe. And enjoy this new spring weather!

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