Northwest River Trail (Charles Greenway)
Northwest Lancaster County River Trail (Charles Greenway)
|Location||[East Donegal Township in Lancaster County, PA]|
|Trailheads||Northwest River Trail head
Marietta trail head
|Use||Biking, hiking, inline skating, and horseback riding|
|Difficulty||Easy, level, ADA accessible|
|Hours||Dawn to dusk, year-around|
|Amenities||Trailhead map and parking|
|Bathrooms||Located at both trail heads and Riverfront park|
The trail runs alongside the Norfolk Southern rail line and the former Main Line Canal. The Charles Greenway section of the trail is a smaller portion of a proposed 14 mile trail throughout Lancaster County and ends just before the Dauphin County line. The trail begins in the Bainbridge section of the township and follows front street all the way to Decatur Street in Marietta, PA. The trail provides scenic views of both the Susquehanna River and area farmland. The centerpiece of the trail is Riverfront Park, which is located directly in the center of the trail and plays host to different meeting areas. The Charles Greenway provides a place for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders of all skill levels from sunrise to sunset. With its constant view of the Susquehanna River and its paved pathways, the Charles Greenway section of the Northwest River Trail is a great place for people of all ages to enjoy a nice day in a beautiful environment.
The Northwest River Trail is a proposed 14 mile trail throughout Lancaster county and the frontier of Dauphin County. The trail runs along the eastern portion of the old Main Line Canal system, which contributed to the transport of many different products throughout the state. The Charles Greenway section of the Northwest River Trail runs alongside or on part of the original canal way. In 2007 the Greenway was created through the strong leadership of the East Donegal Township supervisors and the assistance of Pennsylvania state grants. The majority of the land was donated to the township by the Charles family in honor of their father, who lived on the shores of the Susquehanna for many years. The modern day trail was completed in the fall of 2009 and has been open to the public ever since.
Trail’s history and evolution
The earliest trail of the Charles Greenway was a small and unpaved hiking trail that stretched 2.3 miles. In 2009 the trail was widened, paved, and extended another 1.7 miles to better accommodate bikers and inline skaters. Currently the trail stretches to the northernmost tip of the township and ends close to the shops and Railroad Inn on front street. Eventually the trail will connect to the Conoy Canal Trail in the north and the Chickies Rock trail in the south. The entire Northwest River Trail will eventually stretch 14 miles up and down the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County.
Design and Construction
All of the 11 miles of the Charles Greenway trail is paved. The trail was upgraded in 2010 from strictly a hiking trail to a multi-purpose trail accommodating hikers, bikers and inline skaters. The majority of the trail runs parallel to the Susquehanna River, the remaining portions of the trail cut into woodlands and agricultural lands providing scenic views throughout the trail. The trail finishes close to the shops on front street and the Railroad Inn.
There is parking at both trail heads and Riverfront park, however there is only street parking near the Decatur street trail head located in Marietta. Restrooms are located at the Decatur street trail head. Riverfront Park is located midway through the trail. The park also has restrooms and a pavilion that can be rented out upon request. Currently East Donegal Township is looking into ways to create and finance more amenities for the trail and to extend the trail further into the township.
In 2012 the Donegal Foundation hosted their first annual event at the Charles Greenway River Trail to raise money and awareness for the foundation. The event was a 5k race to raise awareness for the foundation and the event will be held at the trail annually.
- Donegal Foundation (5k race)
The Donegal Foundation and East Donegal township are the only major supporters of the Charles Greenway section of the Northwest River rail trail, but the township is currently looking to add more sponsors and create a better partnership with the other townships associated with the trail.
- Other trails in Lancaster county
- Newspaper article on extension with video
- TrailLink page
- East Donegal Township Website
(Pictures provided by East Donegal Township Manager Jeffery L Butler)