Project Spotlight: Lower Yahara River Trail

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The people of Dane County, Wisconsin were looking for a way to bridge Madison city and the Village of McFarland, preferably with an all-access off-road trail. This wish was granted with the first phase of the construction of the Lower Yahara River Trail, which opened in August of 2017. The 2.5 mile long trail includes 1.6 miles of paved, at-grade paths, 32 bridge paths, and the longest boardwalk in Wisconsin to date. Pine River Group is proud to have been involved in its construction, providing materials for many parts of the project.

New Venue for Trail Users

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Over one million visitors have already made use of the new trail. A shared-use trail had been in talks in Dane County for years, with many residents expressing support of a trail that would link Madison and McFarland through the Capital Springs Recreation Areas.

The trail passes along open water, wetlands, soft soil, and archeological sites as well as rest stops and observation areas and includes a fully ADA accessible fishing pier. To accomplish this, the at-grade paths at either end of the trail needed to meet with an engineering marvel - a nearly 1 mile long boardwalk spanning open water. Users are able to seamlessly move from one section of the trail onto another, stopping at any time for rest, to enjoy a view, or to take part in any of the recreational activities available along the way.

The trail is open to pedestrians, bicyclists, fishers, hikers, and users of all abilities who wish to take in the scenic views and natural landscape that the area has to offer.

Timing and Coordination

Part of the wonder of the construction of the trail has to do with the timing of the project and the major amounts of coordination and scheduling that needed to take place. Because there are several pieces of the trail, including the at-grade sections of the trail and the boardwalk, construction needed to be carried out nearly simultaneously for different areas. Planning for the project began in 2008 and construction started in 2015, with a goal of completing the entire 2.5 mile trail in under 2 years.

This feat meant coordinating the materials, construction, crew, and schedules for completely different sections of trail at the same time. The goal was to have the various sections meeting up with one another at time of completion. This allowed the boardwalk to be fully traversable right away, meeting up with the at-grade paths seamlessly.

This level of coordination made for faster construction and facilitated the trail’s opening with plenty of time left in the season for users to access all areas.

The Crowning Achievement

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The most impressive piece of the trail is the nearly mile long boardwalk, which parallels an active railroad line. The boardwalk includes a bridge that spans Lake Waubesa, constructed in parts that includes three different types of structure. A floating boardwalk is used for sections, along with a helical pile boardwalk and prefabricated bridge span structures, which were placed on concrete piles. Several of the spans were constructed over open water, offering amazing views for anyone traveling along the structure.


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An all-access trail of this length is best used when people know what they’re going to find along the way. In addition to the fishing piers and rest stops, the trail also connects McDaniel Park through the Capital Springs Recreation Areas to the Capital City trail located in Madison.

Now, users of these existing parks and recreation areas are able to extend their day and their time in the area. Visitors can plan on making a day of the trail, stopping at various attractions along the way, or using the trail as a way to reach their destination by foot or bicycle, rather than by car.

The entire trail is non-motorized, making it safe and accessible for users of all ages and abilities. It can be accessed from McDaniel Park or from either the parking lot at Moorland Road or the parking lot located on Lake Farm Road across the from the Lussier Family Heritage Center.

Future phases of the trail are already in the planning stages. Eventually, the trail is planned to reach all the way to the city of Stoughton, passing around Lake Kegonsa and through at least three more state parks.

Be Sure to Visit the Lower Yahara River Trail

Pine River Group is proud to be a part of this historic project in Wisconsin. The Lower Yahara River Trail is a testament to the community in Wisconsin, and shows the love the people have for their community and state parks. Whether you plan a visit to the trail soon, or you plan to see where it goes in the future, be sure to keep track of its progress as it strives to make the area more accessible and reachable for all area residents and visitors.