One of the best urban trails in the country - The American River Parkway

It’s so easy to forget about one of our region’s great treasures — the American River Bike Trail — or more properly, the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail, accessible from Discovery Park at the Garden Highway. The American River Bike Trail hugs the banks of the American River as it flows through riparian habitat preserved by the American River Parkway. The trail runs for 32 miles between Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake's southwestern banks at Beal's Point.

The trail has been in the news for several reasons. The Jibboom Street Bridge, in Discovery Park, right on the edge of Old Sacramento, has been closed since they are repairing the 1931 bridge and it’s not scheduled to open until May 31. In 2017, there were safety concerns due to violence along the trail. Most of the activity happened in the first four or five miles where increasing numbers of homeless people were living. Sacramento Supervisors last August approved a $5 million plan to beef up patrols along the parkway and clean up homeless encampments after dozens of citizens packed the chambers. Sacramento is creating more options for homeless people. Mayor Steinberg hopes to keep open a winter triage warehouse that houses more than 250 people and create more centers.

This year on the trail, there is a regular presence of rangers. They even staff an information table handing out excellent free trail maps that mark phones, rest rooms, camp sites, picnic areas and vehicle access with parking. It is recommended to have a partner on the trail.

You feel like you are in wilderness much of the time. Along the trail we saw deer, turkey, squirrels, egrets and ducks — many bird species. Great horned owl and hawks are very visible in the just-leafing-out trees. In the past I have seen coyote, otters, salmon spawning and coveys of California quail. One year on March 31, pipevine swallowtail butterflies were in profusion along all 32 miles of the trail.

The Southern Maidu lived along that trail as long as 3,000 years ago. Jedidiah Smith was the first explorer to come over the mountains and reach California in 1827. He was impressed with the turbulence of the river and the grizzly. You’ll find the location of John Sutter’s grist mill.

Take advantage of one of the best urban trails in the country.

The two-lane trail is completely paved, with mile markers, trailside maps, water fountains, restrooms and telephones along the way. There are also plenty of places to stop to eat, rest or enjoy the scenery. Most of the trail is shaded and level, although the route does traverse some rolling terrain. Along the way you'll pass through several parks and swimming areas, as well as through the suburban enclaves of Sacramento.

About 2 miles of the trail is on-road in a designated bike lane. In addition, the popular trail is shared by many different users, including in-line skaters and equestrians.

Check out the dining options along the Garden Highway, like Chevy's and Crawdad's after your ride.

Excerpted from the Davis Enterprise Column, Jean Jackman, At The Pond; and TrailLink by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Brought to you by Barron Law http://lawbarron.com/

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