Visitors can now access the conservation area via the Katy Trail.
The Rocheport segment is one of the most scenic and heavily used sections of the 225-mile long Katy Trail, a rail trail with approximately 400,000 visitors per year along this stretch of trail. Many of these visitors will now be able to enjoy one of both of the new trails and viewing opportunities at Diana Bend Conservation Area.
The trails now accommodate visitors to the area looking for additional hike and wildlife viewing opportunities, and those wishing to explore the ongoing Missouri River floodplain restoration. Access to the portion of Diana Bend Conservation Area containing the new trails is by foot or bicycle from the adjacent Katy Trail State Park.
Two trails were built: a disabled accessible wood boardwalk and a natural surface hiking trail with each segment incorporating a large viewing platform. In addition, the boardwalk leads to a wildlife viewing blind.
The disabled accessible trail begins just off the Katy Trail and is surfaced with crushed aggregate similar to the rails to trails construction. After about 170 feet there is a transition to a wood boardwalk. The boardwalk parallels a steep limestone bluff as it gradually rises on piers to the height of a levee surrounding the wetlands.
It then opens into an 18 x 18 foot platform overlooking the wetlands. From the platform, the boardwalk continues along the front of the bluff and zig-zags down to a wildlife viewing blind. The disabled-accessible viewing blind provides up-close views of the floodplain, wetland restoration and river wildlife. The total length of the wood boardwalk is 392 feet.
Back at the viewing platform on the levee, visitors may choose a more strenuous hike to the bluff top. A natural surface trail begins here with stairs transitioning to rock steps for a short distance. Just to the right at the bottom of the strains, an old rock carving was left exposed. The rocks reads: W.P. Tompkinds, Fisherman, Apr 22, 1892.
The steep trail follows the route of an old worn footpath, now widened and covered in wood chips. To help stabilize the chips and facilitate drainage, staggered up the hill are numerous waterbars built with strips of rubber conveyor belt sandwiched between boards.
Rising up to the highest point, the trail then curves back toward the edge of the bluff and ends at another 18 x 18 foot viewing deck. From this platform high above the woodplain, visitors have a commanding view of the Diana Bend Conservation Area wetlands, and glances of the Missouri River.
The wood chipped trail is approximately 570 feet long. Benches midway up the hill and at the top near the viewing deck provide convenient resting places.
2021: Vermilion Falls Trail