Thanks to combined efforts of the city of Missoula, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, the University of Montana and the Missoulian, this stretch of riverfront has been transformed from a railroad and power line right of way to an attractive open-space corridor.
The trail on the south side of the Clark Fork connects some popular community parks and recreation areas.
McCormick Park, at the western end of the trail, is a 26-acre city park with a public swimming pool, children’s fishing pond, tennis courts, playground and ball fields. In winter, ice skating is available.
John C. Toole Park, a 12-acre city park west of the Madison Street Bridge, has a 400-meter running track and a large grassy area that’s a favorite spot for tossing Frisbees. You’ll find restrooms in this park. Along the river, look for several large rocks on which to perch and watch the water flow.
Jacobs Island, just south and east of the Van Buren Street footbridge, is a popular place to picnic or simply lounge. Warm, sunny spring and fall days draw University of Montana students to the grassy banks of this nine-acre city park. The east end of the island has the Bark Park, a designated area for dogs to play off-leash.
Another city park, the Clark Fork Nature Park, has been developed just east of McCormick Park and the Orange Street Bridge.
Enjoy the natural vegetation along the trail, but please remember not to trample plants along the river’s edge; they receive a yearly beating during high water. This vegetation is wildlife habitat, so keep your eyes and ears open for beavers, songbirds, great blue herons, and, if you’re fortunate, a bald eagle.
Just east of Jacobs Island, the trail becomes the Kim Williams Nature Trail. You can follow this trail east of town through Hellgate Canyon, cross the Van Buren Street footbridge to get on the northside riverfront trail or travel a short distance to the “M” trail.
To get to the “M” trail, follow the sidewalk south from the Van Buren Street footbridge for a block to Campus Drive and turn left; the trailhead is on your left about a half-mile up Campus Drive.