Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ride: Billy Wolff Trail

Lincoln, Nebraska has extensive biking infrastructure, much of which is built on old railroad right-of ways or along existing highways.  The major exception to these trends is the Billy Wolff trail, which follows Antelope Creek from its origin in southeast Lincoln to the point it empties into Salt Creek on the north end of the city.

Antelope Creek starts out as a tiny trickle in the far southeast corner of Lincoln, growing into a large stream by the time it reaches Salt Creek eleven miles later.  The creek is an important drainage path for a large portion of the city, but as the city grew, it slowly got narrowed and pushed into underground drainage pipes.  Historically, this led to a variety of flooding problems along its path, and eventually the city started doing work to fix the problem.  In the early 1960s, Holmes Lake was created when a large dam was built across the creek in southern Lincoln.  This created a buffer for storm water, but work continued long after that to keep improving the flow of the creek and prevent flooding.  This work culminated in the Antelope Valley redevelopment project, which immensely improved the flood control characteristics of the north end of the creek while creating large public greenspaces in the process.  Today, the creek is revitalized in a way that is not commonly seen in urban areas.

The development of the Billy Wolff trail has happened in parallel with the flood control work, making use of Antelope Creek as a natural highway that cuts diagonally through the city.  Work on the trail started in 1978, with a stretch from downtown to Holmes Lake, and it has continued to grow ever since.  Today, the trail runs from the University of Nebraska on the north end to Nebraska Highway 2 on the south end, a distance of just over 11 miles.  It sits below street level for much of the way, following the natural course of the creek, with some stretches that leave the creek bed to follow existing roads.

The Billy Wolff trail provides a great path between northwest and southeast Lincoln, passing by the Sunken Gardens, the Lincoln Children's Zoo, Holmes Park, and a variety of other parks along the way.  It is a good choice for commuting, as well as for short out-and-back recreational trips.  Given Lincoln's mature bike path infrastructure, it can also be used as part of several loops around the city.  You can start planning your trip by studying the trail on the Wireless Bike Map.

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