Blue River Trail is an asphalt pathway that runs along the Blue River in Columbia City, Indiana. Columbia City, the county seat for Whitley County, is located in Northeastern Indiana, and was founded in 1839. This very small community had a population of only 350 and remained so until 1856. With the completion of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago Railroad, rapid growth in population attracted new businesses and settlers to the area. From 1860 to 1875 the population of Columbia City had tripled. Although Columbia City still remains a small town with less than 9000 residents, it is a community dedicated to preserving quality of life and continued growth for their city. At one time it was the largest manufacturer of blue jeans in the world and has continued to maintain a stable economy over the years.
Columbia City holds several events annually, such as, Old Settlers Day, an event which raises charitable funds for county organizations. Two other events are the ‘Hammer Run’, which is a relay marathon and ‘Hammer it Home’, a classic car show. The Mishsihkinahkwa Powwow, a Native American festival, is held every year at Morsches Park. Here, Native Americans gather to share tribal traditions and culture, while honoring elders, warriors and other deserving recipients.
Blue River Trail begins on S. Whitley Street at the Fire Museum and travels eastward along the Blue River. There are several access points with available parking throughout its route. The trail passes a few homes and businesses and is mostly tree lined. The trail turns north at just over a half mile and proceeds to a foot bridge which crosses the river and leads to the YMCA. The trail continues around the YMCA parking lot then crosses SR 205. About a tenth of a mile east on SR 205, the trail picks up again and leads into Morsches Park.
Morsches Park is a 117 acre park that offers many sporting and leisure activities. The trail passes by two tennis courts, a playground, a skate park and six baseball diamonds. Other amenities include restrooms, a campground, concession stand and plenty of parking. The trail continues in a northward direction and passes under US 30. The trail then loops around a pond where one can head back toward Whitley Street. There is also a small parking lot near the pond. A round trip on this trail is 4.6 miles. For those who prefer a bit longer hike or ride, just a short distance across a grassy area, one can access a single track dirt trail that continues north for about another mile to Cider Mill Road.
Morsches Park also offers seven miles of tight, single track, natural surface Mountain bike trails within the park, which is also enjoyed by hikers. The section at the north side of the park requires skilled riders as the trail meanders through vast wooded areas and has many tight turns. The south side section is a little easier though it has a few short, steep hills. All-in-all, the entire seven miles delivers an exciting and exhilarating ride at any skill level.
Columbia City Parks and Recreation Department is making plans to extend Blue River Trail in the future. They are currently in search of funds for the new section which is proposed to extend from the pond at Morsches Park, heading south on the west side of the river to US 30. It will then turn westward and end near Countryside Mobile Home Park and various stores. Total length of the proposed extension is one mile.