Whether you’re looking for a place to exercise, take a leisure after-dinner stroll, or simply hang out in the shade, you'll love Rome’s riverfront greenways and parks. (with 20 photos)
There are many things to do in Rome, Georgia. It has its share of good restaurants and unique shops. It has several historic sites including a downtown filled with some interesting 120- to 150-year-old buildings. You can enjoy a wide variety of small college sports, and, in the summer, you can take in a minor league baseball game.
Two rivers, the Etowah and the Oostanaula, converge at the western side of downtown Rome forming the Coosa River. You’ll sometimes see folks on kayaks or paddleboards enjoying the curvy waterways. Green spaces near the water that are part of, or are connected to, the hilly city’s Heritage Trail Network provide some excellent mostly-flat options for walking, running or bicycling.
The riverside green spaces certainly add to the reasons why Rome is a good destination for a weekend getaway, and why its residents enjoy a good quality of life.
Keep reading for details about the Heritage Trail System and related points of interest, along with some ideas for making the most of a greenway-themed roadtrip to the city.
Variations between maps found online can be confusing as they differ on what some path sections are called. Some are provided by the big trail website publishers who have never been to Rome.
A couple of PDF maps that you'll run across are locally published, but they also differ in regard to the names of various sections. It really just comes down to how closely you want to zoom in. One map is closer and is able to provide a more-detailed view. The other groups different portions under fewer names because it’s zoom level doesn’t allow for the details.
For Rome’s waterfront greenways, I prefer the more detailed map that you find here: Heritage Trail Network. By providing a zoomed-in view, it best illustrates where to find different sections by name. And although it doesn’t name the walking bridges — which I consider highlights of any trip to downtown Rome — it clearly shows them as part of the network.
The walking bridges and the sidewalks on three street bridges — all within a half-mile radius — help make it easy to travel from one side of a river to the other.
The photo above was taken at this spot: Google map
In this article, I provide information and photos for the following:
- Heritage Park Trail
- Heritage Park Pedestrian Bridge (the Lock Bridge)
- Town Green
- Chief John Ross Memorial Pedestrian Bridge
- Downtown Riverfront Trail (Riverwalk)
- Oostanaula Levee Trail
- Chieftains Trail
- King Fisher Trail
- Silver Creek Trail
These trails and bridges are all considered to be part of the Heritage Trail System.
The Heritage Park Trail and Pedestrian Bridge
The Heritage Park Trail runs for about 0.65 miles atop the tall levee on the north side of the Coosa, stretching the entire length of the riverfront Heritage Park. The levee has no trees, so you will often enjoy the sun and wind at their full strength.
It allows you to walk, jog or bike between the historic downtown and the area of town on the east side of Shorter University.
Heritage Park also features youth sports fields, a boat launch, and a lot of grassy areas. You often see a good number of people fishing from the banks of the river.
Found at the point where the rivers meet at the south end of the park, the Heritage Park Pedestrian Bridge is one of the most popular places in Rome for capturing selfies and other photos. An outstanding location for watching birds and sunsets, and originally built in 1905 to carry trains across the river, the 480-foot long bridge is now also known as the Robert Redden Footbridge. Pinpoint the bridge on Google map.
In the past 8 or 9 years, folks have started calling it the Lock Bridge due to the growing number of padlocks that have been placed there by couples who wished to symbolize the strength of their love for each other.
Town Green and the Chief John Ross Memorial Pedestrian Bridge
Town Green is a well-kept, like-new riverfront green space that features a fountain, splash pad, statues and historic markers. The landscaping is nicely layed out with lovely sidewalks, retaining walls, streetlamps and benches. Adjacent to the Forum River Center and the historic downtown, it’s a beautiful place to read a book, hang out with friends or to enjoy a view of the river.
The 13-year old, 400-foot long Chief John Ross Memorial Pedestrian Bridge completes the riverfront setting, providing a lighted path across the river to the new Courtyard by Marriott and the Oostanaula Levee Trail.
Downtown Riverfront Trail (Riverwalk)
The Downtown Riverfront Trail, or Riverwalk as shown on the preferred map, is the portion of path on the south side of the river between the Lock Bridge and 6th Avenue.
It passes through Town Green and intersects with the Chief Ross pedestrian bridge before passing the Forum, the new courthouse, the old courthouse and the big police station. The Riverwalk portion ends and the Chieftains Trail begins when you get to the big parking lot behind the county library.
Approximately 0.46 miles in length, the Riverwalk makes it possible to cross under the busy 2nd Street bridge which, when walking or riding a bike, can be difficult at street level without going to the light at Broad Street. That comes in handy if you park, for example, near Town Green and need to get to Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que, or visa versa.
The trail’s lower-lying parts can be closed at times due to flooding.
Oostanaula Levee Trail
Pinpoint the spot where this photo was taken: Google map
The Oostanaula Levee Trail is a 1.2 mile long concrete path found on the north side of the river that it’s named after. There are alternate upper and lower paths within the 0.29 mile section between 2nd Ave. and 5th Ave.
Like the Heritage Park Trail, there are no trees along the grassy levee. If you need to take a break with shade, you can find some at each of the four bridges that the path passes under.
You can connect to the Oostanaula Levee Trail from any of the bridges. I have used it to ride my bike from the Town Green area to the Upper Avenue A Historic District, which is found at it’s northern terminus.
The Chieftains Trail
At almost 2.5 miles, the Chieftains Trail takes you north, out of the downtown area. Following the east side of the Oostanaula from the rear of the library, it goes all the way to State Mutual Stadium, which is home of the Rome Braves.
Unlike the levee trails, it’s mostly shaded. A large number of big hardwood trees make it a great place to enjoy fall colors. About a quarter mile of it passes through the sprawling Ridge Ferry Park. The upper part of that park is considered to be a large dog park. By the way, leashed dogs are welcomed on all trails.
Further north, the Chieftains Trail passes the Chieftains Museum/Major Ridge Home, which sits on the hill safe from even the worst flooding.
Other than at the Riverwalk and the library, you can access the Chieftains Trail portion of the path network at Ridge Ferry Park, at the shopping center just north of Turner McCall Blvd, or at either side of State Mutual Stadium.
BIKER’S BONUS: If you find yourself at the stadium on your bike, and you would like to ride a few more miles to the north, the 2-mile long Armuchee Connector has bike lanes.
King Fisher Trail
At its northern end, the 0.59 mile long King Fisher Trail starts by going underneath the west side of the small Broad Street bridge. A good-sized parking lot is located at that spot, which is at the foot of the steep hill where the epic Myrtle Hill Cemetery is found.
At its southern end, it deadends into the Silver Creek Trail.
Like the Chieftains Trail, this trail passes through some dense riverfront hardwood forest allowing for some great fall colors if you happen to be there between about October 20 and November 10.
A good trail for enjoying riverfront scenery and for birdwatching, I have seen and heard woodpeckers, and yes, kingfishers. A large number of grackles were carrying on during my last visit.
The King Fisher Trail makes you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere even though you are always less than 2,000 feet from a couple of very busy streets.
The Silver Creek Trail
Silver Creek is a tributary of the Etowah River found on the south end of the city. The rail-trail that shares its name is a 0.69 mile long path built on the same old railroad bed that once led to the south from the Lock Bridge. Near its northern terminus, the trail crosses the river on another old rail bridge, and also features some nice hardwood forest.
Being a historic places fan and a bicyclist, I have used the Silver Creek Trail to travel safely from the Between the Rivers Historic District and the East Rome Historic District.
NOTE: Homeless persons are known to camp along the wooded King Fisher and Silver Creek trails. You may want to buddy up with other joggers or cyclists while in those areas, especially if you are uncomfortable being confronted by homeless men who are seeking cash donations. The homeless are also sometimes seen at the shaded areas near the Lock Bridge, and under some bridges along the Riverwalk.
Top off a great lunch or dinner with a stroll along the riverfront
At least eight popular dining establishments — including Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que, Mello Mushroom and Jefferson’s — are within walking distance of the Oostanaula River. That makes it easy to escape to the riverfront greenway for a leisure stroll after enjoying a meal.
In many instances, it’s no more than two blocks from the restaurant of your choice and the greenway access found at Town Green or the courthouses.
Downtown Rome is an ideal place to enjoy some of my favorite things including viewing historic streetscapes, riding one of my bikes, and eating barbeque or pizza. The historic downtown commercial district is relatively bike-friendly, and the Heritage Trail System makes it easy to park your truck and then move from one part of the city to another by walking or biking.
For me, the 3-mile span of greenway on the east side of the Oostanaula from the Lock Bridge to the minor league baseball stadium is one of the best things about Rome.
For historic-places fans, most of the downtown area is within the fanastic Between the Rivers Historic District. Check out these related southernoutings.com articles: