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Best American Walks: The Bay City Riverwalk

Updated on June 4, 2015
Historic buildings downtown on the west side of the Saginaw River.
Historic buildings downtown on the west side of the Saginaw River.

A Sanctuary in the City

The Bay City Riverwalk is part of the Bay County Loop and Rail Trail system in Bay County, Michigan - one of my favorite places in the world. The Rail Trail paths cover over 17 miles of foot and bicycle routes for exercise and sustainability.

The southern anchor of the Riverwalk is actually at Bigelow Park down south of the Veterans Memorial Park. It is on Middleground Island in the river. The veterans park runs along the west side of the Saginaw River in the Downtown area near several hotels. The northern anchor of the Riverwalk is Liberty Harbor Marina at the foot of the Liberty Bridge, but the entire bike and walking route goes farther and circles around the city.

My first walk on the Bay City Riverwalk was in a wheelchair, alternately wheeled by friends and propelling myself along the expansive wooden walkways. The compound ankle fracture I'd had was healed, but some swelling interfered with long walks, so we used wheels.

This downtown Riverwalk offers views of parks one either side of the river, a boardwalk with benches along the way, and a wildlife sanctuary. It was incredible the first time I saw it and is incredible every time I see it. The experience is free and is comparable to a trip to the zoo. The entire complex is one of the largest such recreation areas in the state.

Bay City Veteran's Memorial Park

show route and directions
A markerBay City Veteran's Memorial and Veteran's Bridge -
Veterans Memorial Bridge, Bay City, MI, USA
get directions

The Riverwalk spans the Veterans Memorial Park (see video)

B markerLiberty Harbor Marina -
915 JFK Drive E Midland St, Bay City, MI 48706, USA
get directions

C markerMiddleground Island, Bay City MI -
Middle Ground, Bay City, MI 48706, USA
get directions

Running parallel, Veterans Memorial Park, the Saginaw River, and Wenonah Park cut through the center of two of Bay City's shopping districts.

My favorite section of the veteran's park is the 12-acre Kantzler Arboretum at the 500-foot inlet that is a former shipbuilding dry dock in the middle of the veterans park. This is a favorite place to enjoy a variety of trees and flowers while sitting at picnic tables and on benches around the water.

Feeding the waterfowl is fun, because large flocks of geese, gulls, ducks, and even a group of swans come over to eat. High-price bread stores on Euclid Avenue and Wilder Road are busy with visitors making purchases for the birds. My friends and I also buy cracked corn and bird feed at local stores for them.

Along the Riverwalk we see herons and in one section are some every tall weeping willow-type trees in which the herons stand. It is odd to see tall birds standing in tall trees, as if it were prehistoric times. We've also seen cormorants in the water and ospreys overhead.

Veterans Memorial Bridge

Virtual Tour of the Parks and Riverwalk

Veterans Memorial Park, the Saginaw River, and Wenonah Park cut through the center of two of the largest business and shopping districts in Historic Downtown Bay City. The area was settled by lumber and sawmill barons and in 2010, local builders still find piles of sawdust inside the foundations of buildings they are renovating.

Many historic buildings are found along the Center Avenue Historic District downtown and on out State Route 25 toward the east, which was repaired and widened in 2009 - 2010. Nearby, a brand new and much larger YWCA opened in the 2010s.

My favorite section of Veterans Memorial Park is the Kantzler Arboretum at the former shipbuilding dry dock that is an inlet near the Senior Center on John F. Kennedy Drive.

Further along the route you can see the remains of sunken ships that burn down to the water in the wars our country fought in the 18th and 19th Centuries on the Great Lakes. Some were also burned rather than dismantling them. Relevant museums are located near the Riverwalk.

See the video below for a complete tour of the Downtown Saginaw River area that spans the area stretching under the Lafayette, Veterans, and Liberty Bridges.

Bay City Riverwalk

Featured Film Clip On Bay City Animal Wellbeing

The video about animal adoption in the link here features footage of the Bay City Riverwalk, with close ups of historic buildings. It was filmed on location at the Historic Meyer Log Cabin, Historic State Theatre in Downtown Bay City, Bay County Animal Shelter, and the Riverwalk.

The original song and video were created and produced by Cary Ewing as a final project for the Delta College Electronic Media and Broadcasting program in Bay City. Such films are often shown during the annual Hell's Half Mile Film Festival in Downtown Bay City, named for the blocks of taverns that were busy during the old logging and lumber milling days.

Michigan's Lumbertowns: Lumbermen and Laborers in Saginaw, Bay City, and Muskegon, 1870-1905 (Great Lakes Books Series)
Michigan's Lumbertowns: Lumbermen and Laborers in Saginaw, Bay City, and Muskegon, 1870-1905 (Great Lakes Books Series)

The lumber barons built stone mansions in the Downtown Area, which are on tour routes today.


Filming Locations for "Something to Someone"

show route and directions
A markerHistoric State Street Theater -
913 Washington Ave, Bay City, MI 48708, USA
get directions

B markerMeyer Log Cabin, Bay City MI -
John F Kennedy Dr, Bay City, MI 48706, USA
get directions

Nest to the Historic Trombley House

C markerAnimal Shelter -
800 Livingston St, Bay City, MI 48708, USA
get directions

Tall Ships Festival Finale 2010


© 2010 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      MPG - yes, I love the video, was fortunate to find it. Thanks!

      James - Your musical experiences in Bay City sound like very good memories. I've heard of the Fourtney and am planning to check out some of the new sites in the city soon; some buildings have been rebuilt as restaurants. Some friends play in bands and a community orchestra in Saginaw. Thanks for sharing your memories; music is a great part of life.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for a good read. I used to play music in Bay City at the Sawmill, and in Saginaw at the old Fourtney Hotel. Don't know if either still exists. I still have friends who live in the area. My long time bass player and sound technician were both from Saginaw.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      What a great hub Patty and I too thought the video on animal adoptions was moving. River walks are so relaxing as you are able to enjoy the view as well as the water. Thanks, Marie.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      I enjoyed this hub so very much. Felt as though I were right there. Thank you. Rated up.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      I was moved by Cary Ewing deciding to do this project for college, going so far as to write and perform a song to advocate for animals, while including so many Bay City landmarks. I can't sit thorugh Sarah McLachlin's because it is too graphic, but this is riveting in it's own way.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      Patty~ I cannot tell you just how moved I was by the little video clip you slipped in on animal adoptions. I did see the beautiful views of "the bat city riverwalk" and it added a wonderful feel to the music video. The song presented (in the video) was very emotional and I just want to thank for adding such an important sidebar to your article. For the animal lover like me, it clinched the deal "up" awesome and shared! Super job.


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for sharing. It must be a real experience and refresh mind and body.