Check this out! It's really close to my home - maybe a 10 minute car ride. It's a wonderful, quiet paved trail that parallels the Meramec River for about 4 miles. There are several points along it to park, but I chose to park at the westernmost trail head in the municipality of Valley Park, MO. Don't be put off by the picture of cars whizzing by on the highway above the trail. In just a few yards, the trail passes under an old railroad bridge then takes you farther away from the noise and pollution (although the sounds of nearby Interstate 44 are ever present in the distance).
This area had been completely flooded in 1993 when the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers reached catastrophic levels. At the confluence of the two rivers, where there is also a third, the much smaller Illinois River, the usual 1 mile width from Missouri to Illinois grew to SEVEN miles! Much of the cities of Alton and Grafton, Illinois were covered. Secondary rivers like the Meramec both contributed to the flooding and experienced record levels themselves. The Meramec empties into the Mississippi about 3 miles south of the Arch. This trailhead is about 12 miles from that point. New levees and flood gates have been erected in hopes of avoiding the sort of destruction that occurred in 1993. However, it's probably just a matter of time before Mother Nature has other ideas.
In the meantime, those of us who like to walk and bike have benefited from the newly erected levees surrounding St. Louis. This trail wanders in an almost straight, flat line for its entire length, making it a perfect place for unseasoned walkers, for those pushing strollers, and for a less challenging outing during peak hot, humid, buggy St. Louis afternoons.
The Meramec River as it nears St. Louis is not particularly pretty. It has traveled across much of the state, picking up detritus and chemical effluent from farms and industrial sites. The Upper Meramec about 50 miles west of St. Louis is clean and clear, safe for swimming (except for its often deadly current), boating, and fishing. But, it's never a wide river. I float on it at least once each summer. I would not float, swim, or fish it at the Valley Park location.
That said, it's lovely to walk beside this river. The length of the trail is well maintained, especially regarding bugs as the foliage is cut back to grass height for at least 10 yards on either side of the trail. There is ample parking and a well marked, nicely paved trail.
The day I discovered this trail, I walked about 2.5 miles, out and back. Then I drove it's full length along Marshall Road from which most of the trail is visible. Marshall Road is the main drag from Valley Park to Kirkwood, paralleling Big Bend Road, and goes under Interstate 270 just before it joins Big Bend Road on the east side of I-270.
So much for your geography and history lesson. Go find a trail you like and let us know about it. Doesn't have to be in St. Louis. I travel quite a bit and would love to know of safe, beautiful parks and trails in other cities. Get walking!
***************************Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.
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