There is something going on down by the river. People are walking, running and riding bicycles from Columbia to Marietta in record numbers. Outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs are discovering that the newest section of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail provides a unique passage between these two historic towns.
Earlier this year, the section of the trail between Columbia and Marietta opened to the public, providing the missing 2-mile link to complete the 14-mile trail from Columbia to Falmouth on the Dauphin County line.
Be assured, the wait was worth it; this section of the trail has no shortage of interesting sights, beginning with the new Columbia Crossing River Trail Center at River Front Park, which offers beautiful views of the Susquehanna River from the large elevated deck. The center also sits in the shadow of the iconic Veterans Memorial Bridge that spans the mighty river.
The center, which is operated by Susquehanna Heritage, is also a great place to get a little insight into the area’s long history through knowledgeable staff, beautiful artwork and public events throughout the year. The many picnic tables and benches, along with well-maintained public restrooms, also make the center an excellent hub for hitting the trail, relaxing or regrouping.
As you leave Columbia Crossing, the trail crosses the railroad tracks and turns left onto Front Street, passing the abandoned train station. From there you’ll pass under the Veterans Memorial Bridge and head up the wide sidewalk next to the new Route 441 truck bypass. The sidewalk then cuts into the woods to pass under the Route 30 bridge and into Chickies Rock County Park, which offers a number of impressive sights, including remnants of furnaces and a large railroad tunnel that was blasted into the mountainside.
At Breezyview Overlook, more aggressive hikers can catch the Susquehanna Heritage Trail. If you continue along the river trail, you’ll see climbers on the towering face of Chickies Rock, more historic furnace remnants and, eventually, the beautifully crafted pedestrian bridge spanning Chiques Creek.
Just after Chiques Creek, the trail merges with Furnace Road in Marietta. This is where you will find a parking area for the trail before heading into historic Marietta. A short branch off the trail also brings you to the Marietta boat launch and yet another sweeping panoramic view of the Susquehanna River, Chickies Rock and the bridges you just passed under off in the distance.
Would you like to turn up the adventure a little? Chiques Rock Outfitters has locations at both River Front Park and on Furnace Road to rent bicycles, kayaks and canoes. They offer great prices on bicycles to ride the trail, as well as a variety of options to take a guided tour or a self-guided paddle from Marietta to Columbia. They even offer a package to paddle from Marietta to Columbia and then hop on a bike to pedal back to Marietta. Check out their website for current rates and package options.