What a mess in the western half of the trail!
Not too long ago, I hiked the Riverwalk from east of the Big Four bridge to Shawnee Park. The Riverwalk was pretty and seemingly well-kept east of about 31st Street. But from west of there, the path became terribly overgrown with tall weeds and was covered along most of the path with inches of mud and many logs and other driftwood. Sadly, the artistic and attractive bricks which spelled out history were mostly covered by debris. Even the caged-in area along the back nine at Shawnee Golf Course was in terrible shape and closed off. There was a very short section of pavement from Market Street to Broadway that was in pretty clean shape where the Riverwalk ended at its western terminus. It is too bad the city of Louisville, which touts itself as the 16th largest city in the US (certainly laughable statistics) will not keep the Riverwalk, which could be a real city treasure, clean and secure. I understand that occasional flooding will bring some mud and driftwood. But apparently this large section (miles) of the Riverwalk has been closed to bicycles and in progressive disrepair since 2011. I would expect much more from a city which aspires to be great and loves to tout its accomplishments. Louisville certainly has a LONG WAY to go to equal river cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Memphis. In the meantime, bicyclists are unable to enjoy the western half of Louisville's Riverwalk, which I consider to have been its most enchanting section in former years.
Repairs and Security Upgrades Needed!
My girlfriend and I began our ride just to the eastern side of the Big Four Bridge with the goal of riding along the Riverwalk to Shawnee Park (about 8 miles) and back. The short ride to Waterfront Park seemed to be well-maintained (but not very clearly marked for the bikers). It all went downhill from there. After reading the reviews from a couple of years ago, most of the same problems persist. As we left the downtown area, the pavement became uneven and dangerously narrow, and we passed a few homeless tent camps and intoxicated people alongside the trail. The trail was mowed but the tall weeds, brush, and trees left us feeling quite unsafe even at noon! We pressed on to the portion of the trail that had been closed due to flooding/erosion back in 2011/2012. In July of 2014, the people of Louisville are STILL waiting for the necessary repairs. Instead, we took the detour on the highway, which was STILL poorly marked (as mentioned by another reviewer). I would not recommend this trail to a small group or family until the city of Louisville ramps up its bike patrols of the area and makes much needed repairs and upgrades to the trail. As a local resident, I felt ashamed that a trail with such potential for bringing in tourism and local dollars to the more impoverished areas of Louisville had been forlorn over just a few years. To top the trip off, we rode into downtown for lunch and were panhandled no fewer than three times on 4th St.
We ride this trail, sometimes, but not on a regular basis anymore. We started out on River Road way up east and ride through downtown Louisville and up to Shawnee Park. Going through with train cars, trash everywhere, beer bottles galore, along with liquor bottles, there were plenty. We get pass that and into a scary area where pit bulls are the norm. Seems everyone in this area, Portland and along the way, everyone has a pit bull. Seems that way anyway. Some would jump at us, even though they were contained, they are scary. It is not an area you want to get caught with no protection. The area is poor and the people are, well, the area is not good to ride through. Not sure what can be done, but it should be maintained by security. That would help.
Large Section Closed...
On 11/25/12 my daughter and I took our tandem out for a spin to break up the long drive home from Thanksgiving. We started from the Shawnee Park end, heading in toward downtown, and found that a large section of the trail through the park was closed due to the flooding damage (much) earlier in the year. We diverted onto the golf course paths (not many golfers that time of the year!) and accessed the trail again further upstream. A mountain bike could probably handle the trail in this closed section, but with a tandem it was a no-go, even with wide tires. The asphalt trail was covered by several inches of river silt, and even deeper in spots (in addition to the logs, leaves, and litter one would expect). Alas, the good folk of Louisville have a lot of work to do to bring this trail back to life. The posted detour is apparently onto city streets, and was difficult to determine or follow (why we wound up on the golf course). Hopefully someone will post an updated review when the path is reopened, as I think it would make a nice stop.
This ride has its beauty and its lesser moments. The river is always an eye catcher, and especially at certain times of the day, but there are places on this trail that one might not want to have a flat tire or be a stranded target. When we went over this trail, we encountered a lot of glass (beer bottle type glass), and we were very glad we had purchased a very high grade of tire that was less susceptible to puncture than regular tires. In the past we have ridden some high end bikes along this trail before it was finished, and racing tires are not a good idea along this trail. Even with the greatest care and slowest of speeds, it is hard to keep from getting something bad punturing your tire. We carry little brooms and try to contribute to the safe pathway that we all desire, but it really does seem to be a losing battle. That said, and knowing the city budget is what it is, we should pitch in order to keep all of our inner city trails passable and less hazardous. Our most wonderful ride was in Bethpage Park on Long Island. Don't know how they keep this thing so beautiful and well lit and swept, but it was a real wonderful experience we ought to try and mimic NYC here in Louisville.
"This is a wonderful trail along the river. As an out-of-towner, I found no signage pointing to the trail, but it’s easy to follow once you find it. To get to Shawnee or Chickasaw Parks, take exit 3 off I-264, and head west on Hale Avenue. I started at Shawnee Park. Signage on the trail shows the trail starts further south in Chickasaw Park. Find any paved trail in one of the parks heading toward the river, and you’ll (probably) easily find the trail. I found it very, very lightly used, except within a mile or so of the city center. From the Crab Shack east to Litterle Rd it’s a collection of sidewalks and paths without markings. Check out the “Flock of Finns”, 32 colorful sculptures of birds, in the park southwest of the Crab Shack."