Riley Creek incises a remarkably deep canyon in the bluffs above the Minnesota River as it flows from Lake Riley down to Grass Lake. Much of its length is within a conservation area managed by the City of Eden Prairie. This area lies just to the east of the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area and it was looking at a map of that area which drew our attention to Riley Creek. There’s more winter weather on its way. But it was sunny this morning, so we decided that now was a good time to explore the short trail system along Riley Creek.

We started from the small parking lot off Laforet Drive, went around the loop near the lot, then out and back along the creek. It was a sunny and cold (8℉/-13.3℃) morning but the air was calm. There was no running water in the creek, just snow. It’s that time of year when you need to appreciate light and shadow and shapes, rather than be beguiled by wildflowers and leaves and mushrooms.

Leaving the parking lot
Descending toward the creek
Shadow I
Crossing Riley Creek
Sunlight and shadows
Someone had decorated many of the trees with little snow faces
The leaves are a nice touch
Crossing the bridge at the start of the out-and-back trail
On our way downstream
Shadow II
Near the downstream boundary of the conservation area
We arrive at a bike path
Trail’s end
Going back
Shadow III
Past the pond/stormwater basin
Back at the loop
Woodpeckers
Approaching the parking lot

Our loop + out-and-back came to 3.2 miles (5.1 km) with 160 feet (49 m). It was a good way to spend the morning. We needed this moment in Nature, because tomorrow we head west to attend a living wake for an old friend (and best man at our wedding) who won’t be with us much longer. 😢 None of us are going to be around forever, but it’s still a real gut punch when your contemporaries start reaching the end. But at least we’ll get to say good-bye in person…

Our loop + out-and-back at Riley Creek
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