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From Pittsburgh to Portland,
people are flocking to city waterways.

“It feels so alive out there,” says Marge Lemieux, 57, of Portland, OR, who
walks her city’s three-mile Tom McCall Waterfront Loop along the Willamette River several times a week. “With so many people—couples, commuters, dads with
strollers, bicyclists, elite athletes—you feed off that energy.”

Visitors and locals alike have a similar reaction to
America’s more than 30 river walks: they love the human energy but also the
peace, the quiet, the escape to nature within an urban environment—even as the
character of each river walk is unique. Some river walks run along major waterways
like the Mississippi and Ohio; others follow narrow canals. Some reflect
history going back decades, while others represent newer developments designed
to revitalize a city.

America’s most well-known river walk, the San
Antonio River Walk or Paseo del Rio
, began as a WPA flood-control
project in the 1930s and now makes a splash controlling the flood of more than
five million visitors annually to its four-mile path along the San Antonio
River. Cafés, specialty shops, hotels, and musical nightlife abound, but
resident Bruce Martin, 53, is impressed that the natural river comes through.
“It’s not a manufactured toy,” he says. “It’s a legitimate habitat with yellow-crowned
night herons, barred owls, and red-eared slider turtles.”

Whether long or short, paved or wooden, in warm climates or
cool ones, river walks draw neighbors and tourists with everything from
picnicking and people-watching to tandem bike-riding and food truck “pods.”
They’re so popular that many cities—budget cuts aside—are building multimile
extensions and, not surprisingly, turning to their riverfronts for additional
park space.

Carol Ross Barney, the principal designer of the Chicago
Riverwalk
, says, “The challenge was taking a formerly working riverfront
that had fallen into disuse and making it easy to get to—a relaxing place to be
and a green environment on a quieter level below the busy city.”

Jesse Blanco, 41, of Savannah, favors the “character and
charm of walking among history” on his city’s mile-long River Street, with its
red brick sidewalks and century-old cotton-warehouse buildings. The lack of an
open-container law means visitors may legally stroll with a Rum Runner while
watching tugboats, paddle-wheel riverboats, and tall-masted sailing ships ply
the river.

“You
hear so many animated conversations and laughing,” says Portlander Marge
Lemieux, who makes this universal observation about river walks: “Everyone has
fun.”

America's Coolest River Walks

From Pittsburgh to Portland,
people are flocking to city waterways.

“It feels so alive out there,” says Marge Lemieux, 57, of Portland, OR, who
walks her city’s three-mile Tom McCall Waterfront Loop along the Willamette River several times a week. “With so many people—couples, commuters, dads with
strollers, bicyclists, elite athletes—you feed off that energy.”

Visitors and locals alike have a similar reaction to
America’s more than 30 river walks: they love the human energy but also the
peace, the quiet, the escape to nature within an urban environment—even as the
character of each river walk is unique. Some river walks run along major waterways
like the Mississippi and Ohio; others follow narrow canals. Some reflect
history going back decades, while others represent newer developments designed
to revitalize a city.

America’s most well-known river walk, the San
Antonio River Walk or Paseo del Rio
, began as a WPA flood-control
project in the 1930s and now makes a splash controlling the flood of more than
five million visitors annually to its four-mile path along the San Antonio
River. Cafés, specialty shops, hotels, and musical nightlife abound, but
resident Bruce Martin, 53, is impressed that the natural river comes through.
“It’s not a manufactured toy,” he says. “It’s a legitimate habitat with yellow-crowned
night herons, barred owls, and red-eared slider turtles.”

Whether long or short, paved or wooden, in warm climates or
cool ones, river walks draw neighbors and tourists with everything from
picnicking and people-watching to tandem bike-riding and food truck “pods.”
They’re so popular that many cities—budget cuts aside—are building multimile
extensions and, not surprisingly, turning to their riverfronts for additional
park space.

Carol Ross Barney, the principal designer of the Chicago
Riverwalk
, says, “The challenge was taking a formerly working riverfront
that had fallen into disuse and making it easy to get to—a relaxing place to be
and a green environment on a quieter level below the busy city.”

Jesse Blanco, 41, of Savannah, favors the “character and
charm of walking among history” on his city’s mile-long River Street, with its
red brick sidewalks and century-old cotton-warehouse buildings. The lack of an
open-container law means visitors may legally stroll with a Rum Runner while
watching tugboats, paddle-wheel riverboats, and tall-masted sailing ships ply
the river.

“You
hear so many animated conversations and laughing,” says Portlander Marge
Lemieux, who makes this universal observation about river walks: “Everyone has
fun.”

Stuart Dee/Courtesy of SACVB

America's Coolest River Walks

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