Museums, mid-day concerts and a ball park that is home to the beloved minor league Tin Caps team are among the attractions in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the city's 25-mile-long Rivergreenway Trail, recognized as a National Recreation Trail in 2009, offers a nice way to see some of the city's historic and scenic sites via bicycle or boat.
The trail consists of several pathways that start at the confluence of three different rivers (St. Joseph, St. Mary's and Maumee) in downtown Fort Wayne. It also connects to the Wabash and Erie Canal Towpath Trails, giving the Greater Fort Wayne area more than 50 miles of interconnected trails.
The trail system is particularly popular during the summer months, drawing nearly 50,000 trail users each month to ride bikes, roller blade or walk explore the route along the rivers.
The trail, owned by the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, the City of Fort Wayne Public Works Department and the New Haven/Adams Township Parks and Recreation Department is a long, narrow park with a number of scenic overlooks, convenient rest rooms and drinking fountains generally open along the route from mid-May through mid-October.
It's also possible to canoe or kayak along portions of the Rivergreenway, and we visited Fort Wayne Outfitters with the original intention of renting a canoe for a leisurely float along the river on a hot day.
The friendly store staff told us the river was a bit high and fast that day, probably making the proposed river trip a bad idea, but urged us to rent bikes instead as the path through the downtown area was relatively level and scenic.
We decided to take their advice, braving the heat and humidity to don helmets and see how far we might make it along the trail.
The outfitter, housed in a vintage late-nineteenth-century building that formerly housed a train depot along the St. Mary's River and near a cool wrought-iron truss bridge that appeared to me to be from the same era, was a scenic starting point for our ride.
The Queen Anne-style wooden-frame building has a shingled roof with eyebrow dormers and a couple of round turrets. The depot also had two brick chimneys and originally had two waiting rooms with large fireplaces.
After closing as a depot, the building became a sewing, yarn and craft business.
In 2007, bicycle and water sport enthusiast Tim Hall opened an outfitting business in the building.
The business offers year-round rentals of bikes, canoes and kayaks as well as stand-up paddle boards and snow shoes. Fort Wayne Outfitters also offers bicycle repairs and is a retailer of bikes, boats, active wear and locally made gifts.
The business' Facebook page lists events like Yoga on the Bridge, canoe and kayak demo days, concerts and other events offered or supported by Fort Wayne Outfitters.
Our short bike ride along the river that day took us past a couple of other noteworthy historic and scenic sites.
The nearby Wells St. Bridge is a rare example of a pre-1900 heavy truss bridge designed to carry heavy traffic in an urban area. Today, this bridge is only open to pedestrian or bicycle traffic.
I immediately noticed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge when we first arrived in Fort Wayne. The bridge, built in 2012, serves as a gateway to the downtown area, and our bike ride took us right next to the graceful span and its sculptural etchings.
Fort Wayne had three different American-built forts through the years, but the only fort that remains in town today is a 1976 replica of a fort originally constructed as a defense against Native Americans in the area.
Major John Whistler and his troops built a fort at the junction of the three rivers during 1815 and 1816. Today's version has 11-foot-tall walls, two block houses and several other buildings standing on six acres less than 500 yards from the original structure's site on the banks of the St. Mary's River.
This fort hosts a variety of historical re-enactments and other events during which you can tour the inside of the structures. Even if the buildings are not open, you can still walk through, or ride your bicycle into, the fort as we did during our bike ride.
Check online for information and maps of the Rivergreenway Trail.
Want to learn more about Fort Wayne and its history? Check out Fort Wayne, Indiana (Images of America) by Ralph Violette or Fort Wayne (Postcard History) by Randolph L. Harter.
Thanks to Visit Fort Wayne for sponsoring my recent visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana, providing lodging, meals and help arranging interviews and tours of area attractions for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinions about this stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.