The story below was published in Saturday’s West Central Tribune:
U.S. Bicycle Route 45 expands to a continuous 700 miles in Minnesota
ST. PAUL — The Mississippi River Trail, also known as U.S. Bicycle Route 45, received national recognition when federal officials today announced approval of the route through the Twin Cities area.
The route now officially runs the entire length of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The trail connects 700 miles of existing shouldered highways, low-use roads and off-road paths for bicyclists and closely follows the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Itasca State Park to the Iowa border. Some sections have route options on both sides of the river.
“Designating the entire length of the MRT shows a strong support for bicycling in Minnesota,” Tim Mitchell, MnDOT bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said in the release. “The route is a unique collaboration among many local communities and state authorities. It creates regional connections and shared interests.”
U.S. bicycle routes have been designated in 10 states, and another 40 states are working to create routes.
The newly approved middle segment for the Mississippi River Trail passes through the Twin Cities Metro area and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area — a 72-mile-long park managed by the National Park Service. Much of the route is on bike paths with scenic views. This segment of the route offers opportunities to connect with restaurants, museums, parks and festivals along the river.
The northern segment of USBR 45 was designated in October 2012 and begins in Itasca State Park, where the river begins as a small stream. The route then travels through the north woods and past numerous lakes to Bemidji, Cass Lake, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Little Falls and St. Cloud. At Cass Lake, bicyclists have an off-road option to travel 100 miles on the Heartland State Trail and Paul Bunyan State Trail.
The southern segment was designated in May 2012 and extends from Hastings to the Iowa border. This section is on roads and multi-use paths that closely follow the Mississippi River through steep limestone bluffs, hardwood forests, and more than a dozen river towns.
This summer MnDOT will begin installing MRT bike route signs for bicyclists to navigate the route. Detailed maps and other information are available to print or access via smart phone/GPS at www.mndot.gov/bike/mrt.
Once complete, the trail will continue south along the river to New Orleans.
There’s a book about the entire Mississippi River Trail – from Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. You can link to a webpage with more information about the book and the option of buying a copy by clicking on its title here: “Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail.”
Bob Hines and I will be pedaling part of the route described in the article while doing our two-man Pedal for Project Impact fundraising ride June 3 to 9.
While in the Park Rapids are for two days, we plan to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park and riding the Heartland and Paul Bunyan trails in and out of Bemidji.
Remember, if you want to contribute, you can mail a donation to: Safe Avenues, PO Box 568, Willmar, MN 56201. Please write PPI on the memo line of your check.
Donations can also be done online at www.willmarshelter.com. Just click on the donate button at the top of the home page and follow the instructions.
You’re welcome to join Bob and I for the first miles of our ride. Just meet us at 7 a.m. June 3 at the Glacial Lakes Trail head near the Willmar Civic Center.