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Explore the Jordan River Parkway

by SLCgreen intern Atticus Olmedo

From Bear Lake and Antelope Island to Timpanogos and Goblin Valley, Utah is a hotbed for hiking trails and natural excursions. But for many, the Jordan River Parkway doesn’t immediately come to mind as a prime recreational destination. This may be a result of the Parkway’s location, locked between the suburban enclaves and urban centers. But don’t be fooled. People, organizations, and governments have rallied behind the Jordan River Parkway’s potential with a vision for sustainability.

And this month is all about celebrating the Jordan River with a month full of activities. Let’s dig in!

The Jordan River System

Thousands of years ago when Lake Bonneville was receding, the river wound its way through ancient sediments left by the prehistoric lake. Eventually, the river helped establish pond and wetlands. Today, the Jordan River flows approximately 50 miles from Utah Lake north towards the Great Salt Lake’s wetlands. The river is primarily fed from the creeks that travel through the Salt Lake Valley.

The ecology of the river has evolved considerably. Because the river collects water from streams throughout the valley, it also collects pollution and detritus. However, thanks to restoration efforts, the parkway and river have become more hospitable for natural and recreational use.

The river is lined with deciduous oaks, aspens, willows, and cottonwood trees. Invertebrates provide an important source of food for other river species, particularly native carp and trout. Prior to urbanization, coyotes, big-horned sheep, wolves, and mule deer made the river their home. Now, raccoons, red foxes, jackrabbits, and common muskrat can be spotted in the habitat. Birds including magpies, sparrow hawks, and even pheasants are also common.

A bike trail along the parkway

Nature in our Backyards

For the fitness and nature enthusiasts alike, The Jordan River Parkway Trail offers a low-cost fitness and natural excursion option to locals who may not have the means to access far away wildlife areas.

Biking on the trail is becoming more accessible for those around the area. New trails between 200 South and North Temple gave cyclists a direct route rather than the circuitous trek around the parkway.

Improving Accessibility

On the Mayor’s Bike to Work Day, held on May 16th this year, Mayor Jackie Biskupski highlighted the Jordan River Parkway as a space of positive change, saying “There has been a renaissance along the Jordan River and this year’s ride will show all that has been accomplished and what we can continue to do with smart investments.”

Among the investments in the trail included the installation of safety mile markers. Additionally, funds have been allocated for the restoration of the Fisher Mansion Carriage House to help serve as a hub for a nature center, canoe-share program, and GREENbike station. The project is also intended to boost nature education and host local festivals.

But that’s not all! There are several new projects in the works to make the Jordan River Parkway even more accessible:

  • The Folsom Trail Project: In an effort to link the Jordan River Parkway to Downtown Salt Lake City, the Folsom Trail Project is currently being designed. The project will improve safe access to the parkway via bike or on foot.
  • Blueprint Jordan River: The Blueprint is the first comprehensive effort to develop the river and turning it into a regional amenity. Data was collected from community members and committees to envision the future of the corridor. A critical component of the Blue Print Jordan River is to balance natural elements of the river and urban activity.
  • The Jordan River Watershed Project: Underway on Cornell Street and 1000 North, the Jordan River Watershed Project began last May and is expected to continue until Spring 2020. The project will include a relocated bike pump track, an outdoor classroom, an expanded riparian area and flood plain, an elevated ADA accessible boardwalk and observation deck, demonstration areas, and waterfalls.

Get to the River Festival: Enjoy the Jordan River Parkway!

The Jordan River is an engineered river that combines sustainable practice from human activity and the nature surrounding it, according to University of Utah professor Jennifer Follstad Shah. The river makes use of irrigation canals, wetlands, pumps, and natural waters to sustain the river life and Salt Lake City’s growing population.

This September, you can participate in recreation and restoration projects along the Jordan River as part of the Get to the River Festival. Learn about the ecosystems along the river, take a boat out on the river, and get to know your neighbors and local businesses. The Get to the River Festival has many ways for you to learn about the Jordan River corridor throughout the month of September.

By facilitating a space for activity and safe walking and bike routes, the Jordan River Parkway serves as an alternative route for getting to Downtown Salt Lake City. With the combined ongoing projects supporting the river’s health and accessibility, the river will continue to be a sustainable gem for generations to come. 

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