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On the banks of the Wisconsin River is Merrill, a city which got its start as a logging settlement called Jenny Bull Fall. The river and the railroad were the economic lifelines of the town whilst its timber industry thrived but by the 20th century, the riverside industrial structures had become a blight on the town. The city wanted a way to reconnect its residents to the river while celebrating its storied past. Volunteers under the umbrella of the River District Development Foundation purchased 1.25 miles of disused Canadian National Railway line to redevelop, and the River Bend Trail was born.
The River Bend Trail sits on the northern banks of the Wisconsin River, and undulates in step with the waterway, curving from Council Grounds State Park east to the Pine Ridge Business area. Part of it sits on the old railbed, part of it is not, but from end-to-end it remains a relatively flat, smooth-surfaced trail open to users of all ages and abilities. It’s already a popular spot both for every day recreation & commuting for events like fun-runs. History echoes in the landmarks like the former railroad bridge at the confluence of the Prairie and Wisconsin rivers; the cement marker indicating the water levels during the flood of 1912 and the Agra Pavilion, a rehabilitated warehouse. Interpretative panels illuminate these stories. Near the eastern end, an unpaved track peels off the main path to wind through the park. For those wanting to get on the water, there are river access points at various locations.
Future phases may see the trail eventually connect to Prairie Trails Park.
From I39/ SR 64 intersection travel west to South Park Street and turn left (south). The trailhead is located at the end of South Park Street in downtown Merrill where the Agra pavilion is being refurbished for community use. Parking is available. From there the trail goes east to Cooper Street or west to SR 64 and continues to Council Grounds or the Merrill Area Recreation Complex via Cottage Street and Grand Avenue (SR 107).
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