52 Greenbelt Walks: Week 11. The Green and Gold of St. Paddy’s Day at the River
March 17: The luck of the Irish was with us on our excursion to the greenbelt this week. After enjoying a St. Paddy’s Day pint at Cloud 9 nanopub, we hit the trail for a relaxed meander. The river was still barreling along at its super full level. And we’re starting to see more green and plants budding out there. Can’t wait for spring!
March Walk #3 Parkcenter to Orange Bridge Loop, starting at MK Nature Center
2.24 miles. Stroller. Front pack. Alter the route a bit and it’s a good biking loop. MK Nature Center does not allow bikes, so you can park and start from Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park instead. Dogs not allowed at the MK Nature Center or at Municipal Park. Bathrooms inside at MK Nature Center, at Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park, and the trail intersection at Warm Springs Golf Course.
Getting there by car: From State Street, head east until you come to the intersection at Fort Street. State Street ends, so enter Fort Street and follow it as it veers to the right and becomes Avenue B. At Warm Springs Boulevard just past St.Luke’s hospital, turn left. About ¾ of a mile down Warm Springs Boulevard is Walnut Avenue. Turn right. Continue past Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park and just past the Idaho Fish and Game office, turn into the large parking lot on the left. MK Nature Center and grounds can be accessed at the rear of the parking lot to the left. The greenbelt can be accessed directly at the right of the parking lot. Morrison Knudsen Nature Center is run by the Idaho Fish and Game Department. It is located at 600 South Walnut in Boise.
Trail directions: If it is open you can walk through the MK Nature Center building and see the displays, before heading out the greenbelt. Or bypass the inside experience and head to the MK Nature Center grounds to the left of the building entrance. In either case, eventually you will find yourself on the main nature center trail outside. Follow the path to the wooden footbridge over the fishpond. Cross, and then exit onto the greenbelt through the gap in the fence. Turn right and walk along the Boise River to the first crossing, which is Parkcenter Blvd. Head up the pedestrian path to access the bridge, and turn left to cross. The sidewalk here is generous and is protected by extra solid walls. Once across, turn left again and follow the river. There are a couple of paved outcrops with picnic tables and benches to stop and look at the river . When you reach the Orange Bridge (officially it’s the Baybrook Court Bridge) cross and then turn left again onto the small gravel footpath the runs right along the river. Follow this until it hits the paved greenbelt. You can now continue on the paved path back to MK Nature Center and retrace your route back to your car. Or, take a detour to the left on the small off-road trail for a short ways and then again return to the paved path. Or head to the playground at Municipal Park and then return to your car through the grass and behind the DFG building. There are a couple of easy extensions.
Option 1: Continue your walk on the north shore of the river past Parkcenter Blvd. and walk to the next crossing at Broadway Avenue and cross there. Then head left to the Orange Bridge. This adds approximately 1.25 miles to the walk. On the negative side, the crossing at Broadway is not quite as family friendly as Parkcenter Blvd. The sidewalk was widened with the bridge replacement, but there is no barrier wall between pedestrians and cars. On the positive side, this route passes the Ram Restaurant, a great venue to enjoy something to drink or nosh on their trailside patio.
Option 2: Once across the Orange Bridge, stay on the paved path and follow that past the golf course and veer to the left at the intersection near the public bathrooms. This is a good route, especially on bikes, if you need to use the restroom or replenish water in the drinking fountains there.
Our walk: This straightforward greenbelt loop starts at MK Nature Center. Before we set out, we went inside the building and looked around because my partner had never been there before. It’s a pretty cool place.
Their educational displays inside include live fish, informational panels, and life-size native animals (well, taxidermied, but they are fascinating to see up close). It doesn’t take long to check out the inside. It then delivers you directly to the main trail of the outdoor experience. The outside of the center is even more awesome, with a Streamwalk nature trail, underwater fish viewing windows, butterfly garden, and bird blinds to observe the goings on at the center. There are also some rescue birds, including an owl and kestrel, who call the nature center home. Look for the giant sturgeon and trout, which you can see from the wooden walkway over the pond, as they cruise silently below. The entire center is free, but you can make a small donation if you want to support the work they do. In a future post I will describe more about the center and exploring it with baby.
After a look around inside, we walked through the grounds, along the wooden walkway, peering over the side to look for fish, and out of the nature center onto the greenbelt. This is a really lovely shaded section of the greenbelt trail. The giant trees in Municipal Park and along the river feel dense and calming here. This is a great advantage at the height of summer, but lovely any time of year. Cue deep relaxed breaths. We turned to the right to walk along the river. Jenas was in her stroller and we were all glad to be in the (partial) sunshine and fresh air.
A short ways along we saw this.
If you’ve been on this stretch of the greenbelt with kids, you may know the small little beach and wading area next to the trail. There are low stone walls to sit on and usually there is sand, a shallow creek offshoot of the river, a small island across the creek, and the river beyond. I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoys stopping here with my children during a bike ride or long greenbelt walk. It’s a great little spot for young explorers to enjoy some sand and water play. Check out the high water at this spot though! The island has temporarily completely disappeared, and the water is at the stone walls. I do hope that the water level will go low enough again this summer for families to enjoy this mini riverside oasis.
A little gawking, and we continued on, crossing the Parkcenter Bridge. As automobile crossings go, this one is not too bad. There are cars, but the high wall separating road from sidewalk makes this route safer and better for pedestrians. You can cross with children here with few worries.
Luckily our loop went to Parkcenter and not beyond. The greenbelt underpass on the south side was completely submerged. We would have been turned back or have had to cross on the road if we had gone to the next bridge and tried to come back on that side.
Down the south shore we walked and soon the Orange Bridge was in sight. It’s officially called the Baybrook Court Bridge for the outlet road that connects to Parkcenter Blvd here. But call it the Orange Bridge and everyone know what you’re talking about. In the summer, rafters and bridge jumpers are a common sight here. Floaters may even try to squirt you with their soakers as they pass under. On this sunny St. Paddy’s Day, there were lots of folks out enjoying, bridge, river, and sunshine.
Just past the bridge, a small gravel travel hugs the river to the left. I had never been on this section because I am usually on a bicycle with kids in this area. But, bikes do go on it as we found out. We checked it out with the stroller. Short and sweet, this trail connects back up with the paved greenbelt after a short ways. There was actually a section where the stroller had to be finessed between a chainlink fence and tree roots, which made being off-road all the more fun.
Quick backup: rather than turn down the gravel path, if you continue on the paved path from the Orange Bridge you will run into a bathroom building with drinking fountains. This can be a nice pitstop on hot days, especially if you have been biking for a while, or if your children just need a break. There are also year-round bathrooms at Municipal Park too, by the way, and it’s much shadier.
Back on the main track and headed towards the nature center, we took a short parallel unpaved trail (fun!), hit the pavement again, then headed over to the playground for a minute to let Jenas swing. Whee!
We bypassed the nature center grounds and headed straight to our car by going behind the Idaho Fish and Game Building. We passed these beauties and wondered what their story is.
Back to the car. Another sweet greenbelt adventure.
Our St. Patrick’s Day walk wasn’t quite like being in the Emerald Isle. No rainbows, although there were sightings this week! And no leprechauns. But it was lovely, and sunny, and starting to green up out there. And it was exactly like being in Boise and nowhere else in the world. The Boise greenbelt is it’s own kind of pure gold. That we get to enjoy it with our baby makes us lucky, for sure.
Other things to think about:
Nature Study with Kids: Easy this week. Enjoy learning in the MK Nature Center outdoor self-guided classroom, and indoor nature displays. There are all kinds of educational signage, plant labels, and wildlife sighting opportunities. You can come here to study nature with your children over and over. They also have a new Friends group to help support the work of the center. Consider joining!