The Mystery of the Unnamed Trail
Photos and story by Jill Draper
There’s a bit of mystery to a hilltop trail that follows the west side of the Blue River for some two miles between Minor Park and Blue Ridge Boulevard.
Built on an old railroad bed, the mostly level path is a pleasant walk through an oak, sycamore and elm tree forest, with one scenic overlook on a bluff above the river. Birdsong is in the air, and an interpretative sign tells visitors to be on the lookout for yellow-crowned night herons, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers and belted kingfishers, among other native animals.
A Jackson County government spokesperson says the trail is maintained by equestrian riding clubs that originally built it, although a recent hike showed no evidence that horses had been there. Zach Loehr, trail manager for the all-volunteer Urban Trail Co., says maybe his group partnered with the county to build the trail in years past, but the group has since moved its focus to the east side of the river where there’s a longer riverside route with more access points. The group’s goal is to extend the east side trail north to Swope Park for mountain bike riders, long distance runners and hikers.
“Right now, the shorter trail doesn’t really have an official name,” he says. In fact, it doesn’t officially exist—it’s depicted on earlier maps of the Blue River Parkway system, but it’s not shown on current maps of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department or the Urban Trails Co.
According to blueriver.org, the Jackson County Parks Department purchased most of the land along the Blue River, from Swope Park to the Kansas state line, in the 1950s and 1960s. The majority of this land is maintained as an undeveloped park.
The county still keeps up a gravel parking lot for the trail with no name, says Marshanna Hester, public information officer. And last year, the city of Kansas City, Mo., widened part of the path while working on a sewer line replacement project. Loehr adds that the county also did some brushhogging there last year.
The trail is still in decent condition, regardless of whether it’s being maintained or not. To reach the trailhead, start on Holmes Road opposite St. Thomas More School. Turn east on E. 118th Terrace, north on Troost Avenue, then east on E. 118th Street. Follow this until it ends at Lydia Avenue. The official address is 1308 E. 118th St., and a yellow metal gate sits at the entrance.
Check it out, the next time you need a quick fix of wilderness at the edge of a subdivision in the Red Bridge community area.