A Way on the Water

local leaders announce river trail plan, map

Tom Giffey

For millennia, the Chippewa River has been a conduit for travel, commerce, and recreation. Now, thanks to collaboration among a broad swathe of local groups, the 4.2 miles of the river that flow through the city of Eau Claire are officially a water trail.

After 2.5 years of work, these partners have published a map and launched an online guide to help paddlers and tubers cruise down the Chippewa River Water Trail in style and safety. The map and guide highlight easy access points for boats and other watercraft, historic sites, parking and restroom access, and navigational hazards on the waterway.

During a kickoff event June 21 at the Hobbs Boat Landing, City Manager Dale Peters lauded the organizations involved in the project. He said the creation of the trail complements the goals of the city’s waterways plan and marks the latest step in the city’s embrace of its rivers.

“In the last 50 years or so we’ve come to realize the importance of the mighty Chippewa River, and what importance it has on our quality of life,” Peters said. “It’s not just economic value, though. It’s also of value to our human spirit. The majesty and power and tranquility and peace that can be found on the shores or floating in the current really cannot be ignored and should be focused on. Today people of all ages turn to the river for relaxation, pleasure, contemplation, and mindfulness.”

The creation of the trail involved collaboration among Visit Eau Claire, the Chippewa Valley Museum, the City of Eau Claire Department of Community Services, the Eau Claire Water Safety Task Force, the Eau Claire YMCA, the National Park Service, UW-Eau Claire, the Water Street Business District, ad the state Department of Natural Resources.

Angie Tornes of the National Park Service said a water trail basically serves as a series of interconnected access points for river travelers. With the help of their water trail plan, the project partners have submitted an application for a federal water trail designation, and Tornes said a decision is expected in the fall.

Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire, said that if the designation is granted, it will help the community further highlight the importance of its natural environment as well as the importance of arts and culture around the river. She cited the recent Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival as a prime example of relationship between the region’s culture and its waterways.

“Hopefully this is the first of several national river trail designations in our river system,” she said.

Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, said the river trail will help bolster the university’s efforts to create a multipurpose event and recreation complex along the river on Menomonie Street.

“We’re thrilled to be able to be on the river and to develop a site that we believe will really integrate and introduce people to this wonderful river and this rich habitat that exists here and the access that people can have to enjoy what’s really been a hidden gem in my opinion for our community,” Way said.

You can get a copy of the Chippewa River Water Trail map at the office of Visit Eau Claire, 4319 Jeffers Road. See the online version at visiteauclaire.com/chippewariverwatertrail/