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Buffalo Hills Trail officially opens Tuesday

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Buffalo Hills Trail, already a popular route for many bikers and walkers in south Brainerd, officially opens with a ribbon-cutting set for 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The trail includes a 2.15-mile segment that links Buffalo Hills Park (on Buffalo Hills Lane) in south Brainerd to Kiwanis Park, which is nestled between Boom Lake and the Mississippi River, just south of Brainerd High School.

Outdoor enthusiasts have already discovered the paved trail and have voiced their approval.

“I’ve heard nothing but positive response,” Brainerd City Planner Mark Ostgarden said. “Almost every time someone goes down there I hear about wildlife. It’s turning out to be a great asset to the community.”

Members of the public who would like to walk or ride the trail are encouraged to do so after the ribbon-cutting at the park pavilion. Participants may also run, bike, skate or use a handicapped-use vehicle. The route is mostly downhill, all paved and fully accessible to the handicapped.

Area resident Carl Faust will lead a trail walking group and provide information about what may be seen along the way and also provide information about the history of this area. A six-person golf cart will be available for a tour for those that can’t walk or ride the trail.

Should there be rain the ribbon-cutting will take place in the Buffalo Hills Park pavilion. Restroom facilities are available at the start and end of the walk.

The walk is downhill with a 72-foot change in elevation from Buffalo Hills Park to the river. By comparison, walk organizers said the elevation of the Brainerd’s railroad bridge across the Mississippi River is 60 feet.

The walk features a steep, downhill stretch from Graydon Avenue to the river flats. Walkers will traverse over new twin culverts that allow the Little Buffalo Creek to make its way to the Mississippi River. There’s a straight stretch of trail that has Robert’s sand and gravel pits on one side and a swamp on the other. Walkers will cross the swamp on a portion of the trail that is actually a dike for the Brainerd water treatment plant’s back-flush water and a mound for the sewage line that eventually goes across the river to Baxter. With water on both sides it serves as a spot where waterfowl can often be spotted. The trail continues past the site of the Rotary Riverside Park and a new river overlook deck spot with a bench for sitting. As walk participants continue north they’ll pass the Brainerd Community Gardens and the city’s dog exercise area, Buster Park.

At this point walkers may continue straight toward Kiwanis Park or take the left fork to loop around Boom Lake for a slightly longer route. The left fork route includes markers for the 1880s Brainerd Brewing Co. The brewery site was found by the Brainerd History Group in 2007 and excavated in 2008. Another marker along that route shows the site of a 1930s ski jump, near the brewery site.

Buffalo Hills Trail is linked to the existing Cuyuna State Trail and Paul Bunyan Trail. Trail funding was secured by Brainerd and paid for with Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment grant funds and the Federal Highway Administration.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860