Riverfront Trail near Riverbend Park a great place for a hike
Stricken by a nasty case of jet lag, I needed a quick hike to work the kinks out of my legs after a long airplane ride across America last week.
I headed to Riverbend Park in Palisade for a hike along the Palisade Section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail.
Most of this dog-friendly trail is paved. It’s about three miles round-trip and provides excellent views of Mount Garfield and Grand Mesa as it meanders along the Colorado River beneath the tall Mancos Shale banks of Orchard Mesa to the south. Of course, it also runs around the city’s sewage lagoon ponds with signs posted that state: “Keep Out.”
No problem. I didn’t need a swim. Just a hike.
The city of Palisade, the Riverfront Commission and hundreds of volunteers have made this park and trail what it is today, and it’s only getting better.
This multi-use area is a major draw for hikers, joggers, bicyclists, rafters, horseback riders and disc golfers. Motorized vehicles are not allowed, except golf carts for disabled disc golfers.
Although the area is dog-friendly, you must pick up after your pets and keep them under control. From the center of the park and to the west, dogs are allowed off leash. You still must keep them under voice command (or a shock collar), but park rules allow you to let your pets roam a little while you enjoy the peace and tranquility of the trail and river. No chasing wildlife, though!
To get here, take Interstate-70 east to the Palisade exit (42). Turn south and take Elberta Street all the way into town. You’ll hit old Highway 6. Go across the highway, and turn left (east) on the frontage road that parallels the highway. This is West 8th Street. Proceed one block to Logan Street and turn right. Go to the bottom of the hill and you’ll find the park entrance.
Park maintenance vehicles and handicapped vehicles are allowed to drive to the pavilion and handicap fishing pier nearby. Rafters can launch their craft into the Colorado River from Harky’s Launch, a little farther downstream.
This park is home to the annual Palisade Peach Festival, celebrating our world-class fruit industry — an integral part of the happy valley for more than a century. It also hosts the annual Wine Festival that’s grown into one of the best wine festivals in the U.S., as the Grand Valley is now the largest grape-growing region in the state.
Near the eastern end of the trail, the park is highly developed — with playground equipment, the pavilion, covered picnic areas and restrooms. Farther west, the trail meanders through a more natural area, with open meadows and scattered cottonwoods, willows and Russian Olive trees.
An excellent disc golf course runs through this section of the park. Avid disc golfers come from all across the region to enjoy our warm winter climate on this expertly laid-out course.
Even farther to the west, the park reverts more to nature as the trail runs through areas covered with heavy brush and no humanoid amenities other than the trail itself.
Across the river is a small stretch of quality riparian habitat, sheltered from the farms and homes of East Orchard Mesa by those rough cliffs of Mancos Shale. There are no public roads leading directly to that south side of the river where deer, fox and geese frolic in this mini-wilderness.
Yet, even on the north side of the river along the meandering trail, wildlife thrives in the thick habitat of the riparian zone. Only a few remains of a long-abandoned community dump site — where old blocks of concrete are buried in the thick vegetation — can now be seen.
Most of the dump site has been removed by those hundreds of volunteers who, for the past 15 or 20 years, have toiled to reclaim and clean up this river corridor that for nearly a century had been the site of indiscriminate dumping and salvage operations.
Thousands of people here in the valley can proudly boast that they were part of this deep cleansing of our mighty Colorado River.
If you’d like to find out a little about those fine heroes, and more about the Palisade section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail or any other stretch of the trail, check out “People, Parks & Trails,” a guide and history to the Riverfront Trail Project in Mesa County.
It’s published by the Colorado Riverfront Commission and available from the Riverfront Commission (750 Main St., Grand Junction, 683-4333) or at local bookstores. All proceeds go to the Riverfront Foundation to defray expenses of trail cleanup and reclamation. The guide costs $7.50 and contains photos, maps, stories and historical tidbits about how different sections of the trail were built.