A Lesson In Perspective

Jordan Creek and Walnut Creek Trails

Trail Map


  • The Jordan Creek Trail links West Des Moines to the trail hub in central Des Moines. Jordan Creek and Walnut Creek trails are named after respective creeks and are both asphalt trails.  Jordan Creek travels through a variety of areas ranging from parklands, industrial areas and along city streets.  Walnut Creek is a wooded trail linking the Bill Riley Trail to the Clive Greenbelt.

  • The Jordan Creek trail does not have designated trailheads.  Riders can access the trail at several city park locations.  I chose to start my ride at Crossroads Park and ride the neighborhood trail over to where it meet ups with the Jordan Creek Trail on 50th street.

  • There are some lovely portions of this trail.  However, while riding I concluded it’s not a favorite.  The rough trail along EP True, numerous street and driveway crossings, and navigating the busy intersections of EP True/Grand and 63rd Street/Lincoln are not ideal for me. Once reaching the Walnut Creek trail the ride finally became more serene.

  • Entering Ashworth park I stopped at Dr. Bob’s plaza to contemplate the ride.  I was having an “okay” time but it certainly wasn’t as enjoyable as my other spring time rides.  Instead of the usual sense of calmness my nerves had been feeling jangled.  I didn’t drink THAT much coffee earlier so what was the matter?  Rewinding the route in my head I realized what was different.  Other than pedaling around quiet Waukee neighborhoods I had not gone for an urban bike ride since February!  All the wonderful riding I’d been doing out on Iowa’s peaceful rural bike trails had left me sensitive to interacting with traffic and the noise of city life.

Soothed by the sounds of birds singing from the tree canopy above I noticed this quote from Dr. Bob on the plaza sign:  “It’s another day in paradise!”.  How true!  The words of this local hero helped me understand how you can always find a nature-filled bit of paradise even in the middle of a bustling metro area.

  • With my new perspective I left the plaza, rode past Ashworth Pool, and stopped again at the pond.  I watched  the ducks swim before turning around and heading back to West Des Moines.
  • The ride back was a different one.  Instead of seeing the urban landscape I sought out signs of mother nature.  Geese, blooming flowers, budding trees, and the laughter of kids playing at the trailside parks brought me back to the place I can always find while on my bike.  


  • Planning a bike ride such as this one provides a great opportunity to take advantage of the amenities an urban ride can provide.  There’s always a good spot to stop for a bite to eat, a park to play at, or a store to shop from.

  • Parts of the Jordan Creek trail can be tricky to navigate if there has been significant rainfall.  The conditions of the tunnel under Valley West Drive was proof of how muddy and wet it can get.

  • Be prepared to wait when using crossing signals at Grand and EP True and again at 63rd Street.

  • Trail construction continues southeast of North Valley drive.  The trail is opened but the gravel areas are rough.  I played it safe and walked my bike across.


  • West of the 50th street tunnel in West Des Moines I spied some trail art.  The red rider looked to be battling a challenging headwind.

  • At the entrance to Ashworth Park is Dr. Bob Breedlove Paradise Plaza.  Dr. Breedlove was a Des Moines physician and avid cyclists.  He was killed while competing in Race Across AMerica (RAAM) when stuck by an oncoming vehicle.  Dedicated in his memory this plaza serves cyclists as a place to meet, rest from a ride, check out a trail map, or  conduct some light bike repair with the available public work stand.

  • Ashworth Memorial Pool serves as a monument of the Ashworth family.  Having traveled to Iowa in 1851, this prominent Des Moines family donated land to the city in 1924 to preserve as a parkland.  


  • Just north of the EP True/Grand intersection is La Barista Coffee.  I made a segway off the trail to stop for coffee and a biscotti.  After ordering I took my breakfast outside and enjoyed it at one of their cafe tables.  The biscotti was fresh and flavorful and did a great job complementing my latte. 

Wrap Up

While not my favorite route, this bike ride provided an opportunity for self reflection.  With some quiet time off the bike I learned how having the right perspective can impact the quality of an urban ride.

Happy Riding!

Riding the Des Moines Regional Trails

Trail Map

Trail Information


  • Walnut Creek, Bill Riley, Meredith, and Des Moines River trails are integral parts of the Des Moines bike trail network as they connect all four corners of the metro area. Walnut Creek  and Bill Riley travel through wooded areas while Meredith and Des Moines River are more out in the open. Along the trails signs point riders in right direction and provide mileage information.

  • This network of trails not only provides routes for traveling around Des Moines, it gives riders shelter for biking on windy days and place to ride when other trails aren’t maintained during winter months.  

  • My bicycle ride began in Windsor Heights at Colby Park.  Immediately I was faced with a section of trail covered with a soup of slush, mud, and water.  I got concerned when I felt my tires easing deeper into the gunk but made it through without needing to get my feet wet. Thankfully this would end up being the most challenging portion of my ride.

  • The winter conditions of the trails were a menagerie of dry asphalt, snow, gravel, mud, and water.  My bike and I bike got covered in grime, but on this pretty day with it’s glimpses of spring, I didn’t mind.

  • For a change of pace I used my watch rather than an odometer to track my ride.  It was surprising to find out later just far I had traveled.  In my book a ride over 15 miles is considered a long one, so I was extra happy to have put in my first long ride of the year.

  • The bridge at SE 14th Street was my turnaround spot for this out-n-back ride.


  • There are 3 sections of construction to be aware of:  235 bridge,  63rd street bridge and also southeast of North Valley Drive.

  • Slow down and use caution at the blind corner underneath the train trestle on the Bill Riley Trail.

  • Office workers from downtown frequently use the Meredith Trail for their lunchtime workout.  Use cycling etiquette when passing pedestrians.

  • Be prepared to wait for traffic when crossing SE 6th Street.


  • With all the tracks on the frozen Raccoon River it resembled a snowmobile raceway. I’m sure a fat bike or two had contributed to the collection.

  • A fashion photo shoot was underway in Water Works park.  The bright blue of the models dress stood out against the browns of dormant trees and dried grasses.

  • The list of items I’ve found on the trail continues to grow.  On this ride I saw a running shoe perched on a post at the bridge in WaterWorks park.  Hopefully it’s owner returns to claim it.  

  • Cyclists with bikes needing attention will find a public work stand on the Meredith Trail at the SW 1st Street bridge.  Air, tools, and a bike stand are all ready to be put to task.   A bar code on the front of the stand can be scanned with a smartphone for detailed repair instruction.  

Wrap Up

  • Despite returning from my ride with my bike and I both needing a clean up, it was a great way to spend a midday break.  I had plans on stopping at a local coffee shop for a post ride treat but with my clothes dappled in muck I passed.  Instead I returned home and did some online research for fenders.  I have a hunch they’re a must for future springtime bike rides.

Happy Riding!

Bike Ride to Western Gateway Park

Trail:  Jordan Creek, Walnut Creek, Bill Riley, Meredith

Date:    12-1-2013

Time:    11:00 AM

Weather: 30/Calm/Cloudy

Mileage: 15

Route Map


  • This is a network of trails that travels from West Des Moines to downtown Des Moines.  The asphalt trail is smooth and runs flat other than a couple of spots just outside of Raccoon River Park.  

  • The Walnut Creek and Bill Riley portions travel through wooded areas.  The remaining segments are out in the open.

  • The Quick Trip at the corner of 63rd and Railroad can serve as a location for restrooms and water during the off season for Raccoon River Park's facilities.


  • A portion of the route is closed just east of 63rd street.  Be on the look out for traffic while riding through the marked detour.

  • Just southeast of North Valley drive the Walnut Creek trail is under construction.  I got off my bike and walked it through the rough gravel and dirt.  Thankfully it was a quiet construction area on the day of my ride.

  • When riding through Water Works keep a look out for cars.  Most people drive slowly through the park since it’s a popular location for walkers and cyclists.   

  • Meredith trail stops at MLK and SW 16th Street.  The remainder of this route was on about 3-4 blocks worth of sidewalk.

  • Wool socks and my waterproof hiking boots did the trick on keeping my feet warm in the 30 degree temperatures.  I packed some footwarmers in my bag just in case, but didn’t need them.  


  • Western Gateway Park, located downton Des Moines,  was the destination of my ride.  Here I visited the Papajohn Sculpture Park. My favorite piece was the Three Dancing Figures. It was a cheerful pop of color on a cloudy day


  • Starting my ride next to the softball complex in Raccoon River Park  I immediately noticed tons of geese on the fields.  Not a single goose was outside the fields, just inside.  Weird!  Apparently Canadian Geese like to play softball?

  • With the leaves gone from the trees it was easy to spot birds.  I saw Cardinals, Blue Jays, Juncos, and  Nuthatches.  This time of year Bald Eagles can also be spotted along the Raccoon River.  It was my lucky day.  I saw several sitting majestically at the tops of the trees keeping an eye out for a fish dinner.

  • This time of year Jolly Holiday Lights takes place in Water Works Park.  It is Iowa’s largest light display and a  fundraising event by the Make-A-Wish foundation. Lots of displays were set up waiting for visitors to enjoy during the nighttime hours.

  • The Temple of the Performing Arts building hosts a Starbucks where I warmed up while checking out their list of events.  

  • Between the Temple for the Performing Arts and the Des Moines Public library is the the Temple Chess Garden.  There are several chess tables and a small garden surrounded by fencing. Looking closely I noticed lines of poetry in the fence’s design.


  • A warm soy latte was my treat of choice today.  It was just what I needed to help me warm up before heading back to West Des Moines.