Birdwatching on the Greenways

Birdwatching is a hobby that combines fresh air, exercise, and beautiful scenery wrapped up in a treasure hunt. Not only that, birdwatching has no age limitations, requires minimal equipment and gives everyone the opportunity to be a citizen-scientist.  The only word of caution from experienced birdwatchers is that once you start, it can become addicting!

Greenways are great places for birdwatching. In fact, several have been recognized by the Audubon Society as “important bird areas.” We asked the St. Louis Audubon Society to recommend the best greenways for spotting a wide variety of birds along with some tips for beginners.


Can you find the Bird of the Week? Learn more at St. Louis Audubon Society here.


Best Greenways for Birdwatching

Fee Fee Greenway: Aquaport to Creve Coeur Park

The best place for spotting birds along this greenway is the area from McKelvey Woods to Creve Coeur Park. It meanders through what is known as an “edge habitat”—the space between a developed area and a natural habitat. The greenway’s location on a prairie flood plain near the Missouri River provides food and refuge for many migrating waders, waterfowl, and shorebirds.

Meramec Greenway near the Al Foster Trail

The section of the Meremec Greenway near the Al Foster trail lies within a bottomland forest and is considered an important bird area by the Audubon Society. It provides habitat for breeding forest birds, such as the Red-shouldered Hawk and Prothonotary Warbler. You can find all 107 species of birds that have been recorded in this birding “hotspot” on ebird.

River des Peres Greenway at Carondelet Park

Carondelet Park is on the eastern end of the River des Peres Greenway. This historic, 179-acre park provides stopover habitat for many migrating species in spring and fall. It also provides some breeding habitat for many birds excluded from the surrounding urban landscape (e.g., hawks and owls). The Audubon Society recently recorded 29 different species of birds on a single early-morning beginner bird walk in Carondelet Park!

Busch Greenway: Katy Trail to Missouri Research Park to August A. Busch Conservation Area

A good portion of the Busch Greenway passes through second-growth upland and bottomland forest, shrubland, and cropland areas managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. All of this great breeding and stopover habitat means great birdwatching! If you want to see lots of birds, focus on the area between the Duckett Creek trail head and Katy Trail or the section that stretches between Weldon Spring and August A. Busch Conservation areas.


Birdwatching for Beginners: What do you need?

  • A pair of binoculars
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • A field guide to birds. There are several options:
    • The Audubon Society has a list of recommended field guides here. You can also borrow one for free from your local library!
    • If you prefer to use an app on your phone, Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created the Merlin Bird Identification App. It prompts you to answer five questions about the bird you have seen and it offers suggestions about what kind of bird it is based on your location. Learn more about Merlin here.

The Audubon Society also has a free app for identifying birds. Learn more about the Audubon Society app here: https://www.audubon.org/app


Birdwatching Tips

  • Walk slowly
  • Use quiet voices; no shouting
  • Smaller groups are better
  • Observe; do not interact with the birds
  • Look low along the ground in “shrubby” areas and high up in the tree tops
  • Listen carefully (If you want to familiarize yourself with different bird songs, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All about Birds” field guide. You can enter the name of the bird and hear their song. Find it here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/ )

Become a Citizen Scientist: Share the birds you have seen on the greenways!

eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. This collaborative effort is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  eBird lets you:

  • Keep track of your bird lists, photos, and sounds
  • Explore latest sightings from around the world
  • Join the world’s largest birding community
  • Contribute to science and conservation
  • Find the latest bird hots spots in your area
  • Track migration of birds through your area

Registration on eBird is free and it an excellent resource for beginning and expert birdwatchers alike. Click here to learn more about ebird.

2021 Highlights

Lots of good news from around the greenways in 2021! Thank you for your continued input, support, volunteering and visits to the greenways- here are a few highlights:

Greenway Getaway: Postcards from the Sunset Greenway

If you’ve never explored the Sunset Greenway, now is the time to plan a trip! This 3.9 mile paved route meanders through Florissant in north St. Louis County and offers stunning views of the Missouri River at Sunset Park along with connections to other parks, neighborhoods, and multiple historic sites along the way!

No matter the season, a walk or bike ride down the bluff in Sunset Park to the Missouri River is always a feast for your eyes. And speaking of feasts, there are plenty of local restaurants and “Mom-and-Pop” stops where you can enjoy a quick snack or delicious meal. ( See notes on dining options below and check restaurant website in advance)

If you are a history buff, you’ll love exploring a greenway that takes you through one of the earliest settlements in the state of Missouri. You’ll also enjoy Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, Sacred Heart Church, and dozens of historic buildings and homes in Old Town Florissant.

There is so much to see and do along the way, we’ve compiled a list of options so you can plan your own trip!

Sunset Greenway in Sunset Park

The Sunset Greenway is a flat, paved route that stretches 3.9 miles from Florissant’s Sunset Park to St. Francois Street near the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine. Less than a mile of the greenway lies within Sunset Park–but what a lovely less-than-a-mile it is! It connects the upper section of the park down to the banks of the Missouri River. You can walk, ride or push a stroller through the tree-lined path while enjoying views of the river. There are plenty of benches to stop and rest along the way. If you happen to be visiting when the sun goes down, you’ll understand why it’s called Sunset Park!

Sunset Park to Saint Ferdinand Park (2.3 miles)

From Sunset Park, the greenway parallels Humes Lane and then turns south along Patterson Road to Mullanphy Road where it passes through Florissant’s 64-acre Saint Ferdinand Park. There are pavilions, sand volleyball courts, restrooms, a lake, six ball fields and four playground areas.

Saint Ferdinand Park to St. Francois Street (.9 miles)

From Saint Ferdinand Park, the greenway continues south along Coldwater Creek, under Lindbergh Blvd, crossing St. Denis Street and through Coldwater Commons Park. The greenway ends at St. Francois Street. Immediately to the right (west) is the Historic St. Ferdinand Shrine. To the left, (east) you can walk or ride on St. Francois Street into Florissant Old Town. It is .7 mile from the greenway at St. Francois Street through Old Town to its eastern border at N. New Florissant Rd.

Historic Sites to See

Old St. Ferdinand Shrine
The Shrine is at the site of one of the earliest European settlements west of the Mississippi. Although Spain controlled the area, early settlers were French farmers and fur trappers attracted to the fertile banks of nearby Coldwater Creek. The French called the valley “Fleurissant” which means “flowering” or “flourishing” while the Spanish called the tiny settlement “St. Ferdinand.” While it is not known when the first settlers came to the area, it is believed that the village was settled about the same time St. Louis was (1764). The king of Spain actually granted the village the site where the old church was built. The settlement was typical of French settlements at the time with a commons and common fields where the villagers did their farming. For a number of years a log church served the community until the original portion of the existing church was constructed in 1821. Tours are available from Monday thru Sunday by appointment. For more details, visit the Shrine’s website.

Sacred Heart Church
In Old Town, the historic Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located at the corner of N. Jefferson and St. Denis Street. Founded by German families who settled in the area, the original church was completed in 1872. The existing church was completed in 1893. It is still an active parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The historic Herz Jesu school building is the home of Sacred Heart Kindergarten, prekindergarten and preschool. There is a museum on the lower level of the Rectory that is open the second Sunday of the month from 10am to 2pm. To learn more about the church and school, visit their website.

Walking Tour of Old Town Florissant

Old Town Florissant is filled with many century homes, businesses, restaurants and shops housed in historic buildings. Florissant Old Town Partners has created a self-guided walking tour comprised of 13 historic sites. Click here for the map so you can take the tour!

Places to Eat:

There is something for everyone along the Sunset Greenway. Whether you’re craving some Mexican food, a donut, pizza, crab cakes, pastries, deli sandwiches or an ice cold beverage—you can find it just around the corner. Here are just a few of the local favorites:

Hendel’s—known for their historic building, Hendel’s Burger, crab cakes, and outdoor patio. (599 St. Denis Street, 63031)-Closed Sunday & Monday, online ordering available.

Ruiz—St. Louis’ oldest Mexican restaurant is located directly on the greenway! ( 901 N. US Highway 67, 63031)-curbside to go orders only.  

Helfer’s Pastries & Deli Cafe—Family-owned bakery and deli. Their slogan is “Premium ingredients and expert skill make quality our specialty.” (380 Saint Ferdinand St., 63031)

Amore Pizza—family owned restaurant known for “pizza and pasta specials at reasonable prices.” (450 Saint Francois Street, 63031)

Fritz’s Original Frozen Custard—home of the Famous Turtle Sunday! (1055 St. Catherine, Florissant, 63031)***closed for season, reopens in spring 2022***

Old Town Donuts—recognized by the Riverfront Times as the best donuts in the St. Louis region. They are open 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week! (508 New Florissant Rd., 63031)

Important information to know before you go!

If you are riding your bike, the Rotary Club of Florissant has recently completed the installation of ten new bicycle racks to accommodate increased bicycle traffic in Historic Old Town Florissant! These are placed in strategic locations around Old Town including City Hall, Fritz’s Frozen Custard, Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, and more.

Parking
Street parking is available in Historic Old Town. You can also park in Sunset Park or Saint Ferdinand Park.

Restrooms
Park restrooms may not be available due to Covid-19, plan your visit with that in mind. Find all the details on this greenway here.

Brickline Greenway Northern Segment Is Awarded $15 Million in Construction Funds From United States Department of Transportation

RAISE discretionary grant program (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) selected this St. Louis project for funding

With great support from Senator Roy Blunt and Congresswoman Cori Bush, part of the northern segment of the Brickline Greenway, from Fairground Park to Forest Park Avenue, just took an important step forward. The United States Department of Transportation awarded Great Rivers Greenway $15 million in construction funding as part of their RAISE discretionary grant program (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity).

This segment of the Brickline Greenway path will give people transportation choices and connections to nearby destinations, especially on this route with high crash, injury and fatality rates for people walking or riding bikes. The greenway will also include features along the way to enhance the environment and climate change resiliency, improve the safety of visitors and tell the stories of the place through signs, public art and programs. Another major goal is for the greenway to be a catalyst for equitable economic development to strengthen the neighborhoods and current residents in this historically disinvested area. The approach to equity means pursuing shared prosperity for people here now and driving job and population growth. Working with residents, partners and leaders, the greenway project and process strives to drive access to transportation, employment and training opportunities, affordable housing, job and population growth and overall quality of life. Great Rivers Greenway is working with many different kinds of partners to bring all of these aspects of the project to life.

The 2.16 mile section spans 4 neighborhoods, connecting destinations like Fairground Park, Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis, Saint Louis University, City Foundry, churches, businesses and the busiest transit route in the MetroBus system. The total cost of this project from Fairground Park to Forest Park Ave is $41 million and is currently in planning with community engagement, estimated to move into construction in 2025. The RAISE grant, funding a portion of the project’s construction from Fairground Park to Page Avenue, is supported by additional local sales tax dollars that fund Great Rivers Greenway and the match is being supported by Edward Jones and other private donors. Additional fundraising is currently underway. Another portion of the project, from Sarah Street to the Grand MetroLink Station, recently received $4 million in federal funds for construction through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) through East-West Gateway Council of Governments.

This segment is part of the overall Brickline Greenway, a public-private project to connect Forest Park, Gateway Arch National Park, Fairground Park and Tower Grove Park with a network of 10-20 miles of greenway paths connecting up to 17 neighborhoods and creating equitable opportunities for growth along the way. The project is driven by community engagement across all audiences. Visit www.BricklineGreenway.org to learn more about the project and subscribe for email or text updates. The full application and letters of support can be viewed at www.GreatRiversGreenway.org/RAISE.

Five Great Greenways for Fall Color

Greenways provide a front row seat to fall’s annual show of color. Those that meander through forests, along rivers or bottom lands are typically your best bet—but you can’t go wrong with any greenway this time of year! Take your pick of the following (or plan to visit them all this fall!)

Busch Greenway: Katy Trail to Missouri Research Park to August A. Busch Conservation Area
The prime viewing spot along this greenway is the .75 mile route through the forest bottom between Missouri Research Park and the Katy Trail. For a longer walk or ride, explore the portion of the greenway that meanders through the Weldon Spring Conservation Area.

Meramec Greenway: Glencoe to Sherman Beach Park
The Rock Hollow spur will wow you with a showy display of color as it drops down from Ridge Road to meet the Al Foster Trail. Once you reach the river, you’ll enjoy splashes of sunlight reflecting off the Meramec and colorful leaves along the bluffs. You might even spot a few Paw Paws along the way!

Mississippi Greenway: Cliff Cave Park
Your first stop should be the new overlook atop the 170 foot bluff where you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Mighty Mississippi River. For an up-close look at leaves in all their fall glory, be sure to explore the paved greenway and natural paths in the upper section of the park.

Centennial Greenway: Forest Park to Washington University to Vernon
Make a day of it on this greenway! Start with shopping and lunch in the Delmar Loop followed by a walk beneath the colorful canopy of trees on the Washington University campus. Top it off with one or more of the attractions in St. Louis’ colorful crown jewel- Forest Park!

Fee Fee Greenway to Centennial Greenway at St. Charles County Heritage Museum via Creve Coeur Park
Bring your bike for an amazing fall ride that will take you all the way from the Maryland Heights Community Center to the St. Charles County Heritage Museum! Take a spin around Creve Coeur Lake and enjoy the changing leaves as you traverse two greenways—and two counties—via the Creve Coeur Connector Trail!

10 Great River Views You Can Only Enjoy From a Greenway

Almost every greenway is either named for, connected to, meanders alongside or crosses over one of our region’s rivers or creeks. Whether it’s the Mighty Mississippi or Dardenne Creek, greenways are great places to not only see stunning river views, but also enjoy the calming side effects of flowing water. There’s a good chance you’ll also spot some of the many birds and animals who make their home or migrate along the rivers. Here are 10 amazing river views you can enjoy on foot or bike via a greenway:

1. Mississippi River at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
Take the Mississippi Greenway: Chouteau Riverfront to Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (Riverfront Trail) to its northernmost point and walk or ride out to the center of the Historic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Depending on the season, you might spot a family of eagles. Look downstream and you can see the Gateway Arch. Listen closely and you can hear the water rippling over the chain of rocks below. If you want to drive, park on the Illinois side of the bridge here.

2. Missouri River at the Page Avenue Extension/364 Bridge Walking & Biking Lane
The Page Avenue Extension/364 Bridge has a dedicated walking and biking lane that connects to the Katy Trail at mile 42.8 just south of the Family Arena in St. Charles County. On the east side, it connects to the 3.6 mile Creve Coeur Park Connector Trail. In the middle of the bridge there is a bump-out where you can pause to enjoy a bird’s- eye view of the Missouri River.  The Centennial Greenway: Katy Trail to Heritage Museum connects to this bridge on the St. Charles County side. In St. Louis County, you can take the Fee Fee Greenway: Aquaport to Creve Coeur Park all the way from the Maryland Heights Community Center, through the park to link up with the Connector Trail to the bridge.

3. Mississippi River from Mississippi Greenway: River City Casino to Jefferson Barracks Park
This section of the Mississippi River Greenway offers magnificent views of the river as it stretches from Jefferson Barracks County Park north along the river. Be sure to slow down to watch the barges working the river. Plan your visit here.

4. Missouri River at Sunset Park
The more the leaves fall, the better the views of the Missouri River in Sunset Park via the Sunset Greenway: Old Town Florissant to Sunset Park. Plan to spend the day exploring this greenway and finish with a sunset!

5. Mississippi River at Cliff Cave Park
The Mississippi Greenway: Cliff Cave Park offers stunning views of the river from an overlook nestled into the rocky bluffs towering 170 feet over the river. You can also watch the river flow by on the paved 5 mile greenway in the lower section of the park.

 

6. Missouri River on the Boone Bridge
The walking and biking path on the I-64 Daniel Boone Bridge lets you slow down and enjoy the Missouri River from the middle of the bridge—something you can’t do in a car. You can connect to the bridge via the Busch Greenway and Katy Trail in St. Charles County. The Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee will get you there too!

7. Meramec River at Lower Meramec Park
The greenway and St. Louis County Park not only offers great river views, but also serves as a natural flood plain so the river can spread out during high water and flooding. As you walk or ride, you’ll enjoy a mixture of woodlands and open fields. The trees are highly diverse with some of the best remaining woodlands in the Lower Meramec Valley. Plan your visit here.

8. Meramec River at Al Foster Trail
Views of the river from the Al Foster Trail along the Meramec Greenway is sure to improve your mood as you meander through a bottomland forest next to soaring limestone bluffs. It’s a must see! Plan your visit here.

9. Meramec Greenway: Greentree Park to Arnold’s Grove
The Meramec River makes a big turn near Kirkwood’s Greentree Park and it’s especially lovely to watch the light sparkling on the water in the morning and late afternoon. You can start your walk or ride in Greentree Park and follow the river all the way to Arnold’s Grove in Valley Park…or vice versa. Either way it’s a great way to enjoy the Meramec River. Plan your visit here.

10. Missouri River via the MO 370 Discovery Bridge
Just completed in summer 2020, the protected bicycle and pedestrian path on the westbound side of the MO 370 Discovery Bridge offers beautiful views of the Missouri River. You can get there via a paved connector from the Missouri Greenway: Earth City Levee just north of Highway 370 at the trailhead on Missouri Bottom Rd. In St. Charles County, you can connect to the bridge via a paved connection near the Katy Trail access in DuSable Park on the north side of 370 off N. River Rd. You can also make your way there from the Boschert Greenway.

BONUS #11. Mississippi River at downtown St. Louis Riverfront
This is St. Louis after all, so we couldn’t forget the southern end of the Mississippi Greenway: Chouteau Riverfront to Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (Riverfront Trail). There’s nothing better than watching the Mighty Mississippi roll by beneath the Gateway Arch!

Storybook Walks on Greenways

Storybook Walks are a fun way to read a book while enjoying a walk along a greenway. (Not to mention instilling a love for books as little readers burn up some energy!) Books are displayed page -by-page on progressive signs along the paved path. There are Storybook Walks on greenways in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. Plan a visit to one or all of them!