36° 51' 53" n 119° 47' 15" w
Woodward Park is the crown jewel of Fresno city parks. Ralph Woodward donated the majority of the 300+ acres to the city to Fresno in 1968. He intended that the park would be a bird sanctuary and there are several kinds of resident water birds that make Woodward Park their home. Most of the park is irrigated and maintained. The park has been developed as a multiuse facility. There is a large area dedicated to BMX and mountain biking. There are areas for horseback riding, disc golf, running trails, picnic areas, a fenced dog park, a concert amphitheater and a Japanese garden. There are also several fishing ponds. The San Joaquin River forms the north boundary of the park. The Eaton Trail extends beyond the park and will eventually reach the Dam in Friant.
Over the years, the park has primarily been a “runner’s” park. The annual state cross-country championships have been held at Woodward for several years now. It is not uncommon to see hundreds of runners on a Saturday morning is various size groupings. Most weekly 5 and 10k races are held there also. The annual Two Cities Marathon ends in the park. Many of my Fresno friends met at Woodward and have been running together for years. This will be my 22nd year of running at the park.
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More recently, the Tom MacMichael Sr. loop trail was developed on the northernmost area of the park on land donated by the Jensen family. This is in the lower section of the park along the San Joaquin River. There is an additional loop trail north and east more recently constructed. While some mountain bikers use these trails, most have created their own trails along the bluffs below the Eaton Trail.
There is an ongoing attempt to restore this floodplain area to an earlier state. It is about 130’ below the upper portion of the park. There is quite a contrast between the developed and maintained areas of the upper park and the lower area with its thick brush. The running trail travels through the brush and along the river. The lower section is full of surprises for my Airedale and me as we run the lower trails in the early morning. Often there is a pea soup fog in the winter months that reflects my headlamp back into my eyes. It is always about 5 degrees colder below as the colder air settles overnight.
San Joaquin River
I am glad Susie has always been on a leash. There is too much trouble waiting along the way. We have smelled the foul odor of skunk provoked in response to dogs roaming too far from their owners. Susie is an early warning device with her keen sense of smell. Over the years I have learned by the way she responds whether it is deer, coyotes, or even our single mountain lion encounter. We have also seen bobcats, bald eagles, and ospreys, egrets and blue herons. Rabbits scamper ahead of us as we make our way down the trail.
I almost never have a camera with me but today; I took some shots to show what you can see on an average day.