Biking the Principal Riverwalk

The Trail

Perfect for a leisurely ride or walk the Principal Riverwalk serves as a crucial link in the Des Moines metro trail system.  It also provides trail users with an opportunity to take in public art, and view the Des Moines River from a series of unique bridges,  The trail was a gift to the city of Des Moines by Principal Financial Group, one of the major employers within the metro.  The project continues to be a work in progress with a new public art installment having taken place recently. The multi purpose trail travels alongside the river bank in a 1.2 mile loop with easy access from the city streets and intersections.

Trail Information


The Ride

I had heard about the latest art installment along the river walk and decided to visit on my bike.  After parking at the Des Moines Botanical Center and a quick photo I made my way towards downtown.

The first spot of interest was the Robert D Ray Asian Gardens.  It’s hard to miss with the bright red pavillion.  Inside the garden area are waterfalls, sculptures and artistic structures all symbolizing the contributions Asian Americans have made to Iowa along with Governor Ray’s work to provide Iowa as new home to Southeast Asian refugees.  This beautiful and peaceful spot links the downtown riverwalk to the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Next up was the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.  This bridge is a popular Des Moines photo op and shows up often on Instagram.  Only after doing research for this blog post did I learn that one of the pathways on the bridge are for bicyclists the others for pedestrians.  

The new Rotary Riverwalk Park was easily spotted from the bridge.  It’s a fantastic and whimsical touch that gives a nod to the fishing that takes place along the river.  I was surprised to see the fishing rod is actually a structure for a swing set.  The bobber floats in a bouncy play area.  I could easily picture kids having a lot of fun here jumping and swinging.  

My favorite part of the ride was crossing the caboose red Union Railroad Bridge.  I took advantage of the scenic overlooks and stopped to admire the city skyline.  

Making my way back to the Botanical Center I rode past the Brenton Skating Plaza and found one of the city’s B-Cycle kiosks.  For only $6 visitors can check out a bike and see the sites.  (Stations are closed during winter months).

My last stop was the Long Look Garden.  The picture I took does a poor job depicting the creative landscaping design.  The garden is sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred (Dupont) and named after their “long look” business philosophy.  

Thanks to projects like the Principal Riverwalk, Des Moines continues to grow as a bicycling community with plenty of character and lots of opportunities for Happy Riding!