With trees canopying the forest to create shelter for bashful creatures, songful birds echoing throughout and a riverside view, the Fontenelle Forest Riverview Boardwalk earned a spot on the “50 Best Walks in America That Every Traveler Must Explore.”
The list, published by Prevention magazine, came out May 10 and Fontenelle Forest staff was pleasantly surprised.
Molly Mullen, manager of marketing and events, said she stumbled across the list on social media.
“It was very exciting,” she said.
The Riverside Boardwalk, a 1.32 mile loop, was built in 1991 with the intention of serving anyone who wished to explore nature.
Prevention said, “This easy loop near the Missouri River is both wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, making it the perfect stroll through the woods for the whole family.”
With more than 100,000 boardwalk visitors a year, Mullen said the walk is easily the most popular hike at the forest.
Jim Beebe, a forest ranger of 12 years, said what makes the boardwalk special is it is meant for everyone.
“We are set up for family,” Beebe said. “Maybe there’s a little kid in a stroller or grandma who can’t hike the trails anymore, everybody can still go on the boardwalk together.”
The boardwalk is equipped with benches throughout the mile-plus trek to allow visitors to rest or simply sit and awe in the beauty that is nature.
Beebe takes care of 2,000 acres of land and said he always enjoys his time on the boardwalk.
“It’s a nice setting. It’s quiet and the surroundings are nice,” he said.
As visitors make their way through the forest on the boardwalk, they can catch a glimpse of the river and Omaha treasures including the Woodmen Tower and the Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
Throughout the year, Beebe, alongside fellow rangers, keeps the boardwalk clear of snow and fallen trees, making it available year round for walkers.
Beebe said even when working through harsh winters and merciless summers, he feels lucky to work on the boardwalk.
“It makes it really nice for wildlife viewing especially because the wildlife are used to people staying on the boardwalk,” he said.
Though the walk is open throughout the day, Beebe said the best time to see animals is at dawn and dusk when animals such as deer, raccoons, owls, foxes and coyotes are active.
In winter months, Beebe said, it is also common to see bald eagles flying over the river.
To Beebe, it is no surprise the Riverside Boardwalk made the list and he takes pride in caring for it so all can enjoy.
“The boardwalk is just a sliver of Fontenelle, but I think it’s a really important sliver,” he said. “We have a ton to offer, but it’s important we maintain and cherish this.”
Fontenelle Forest, 1111 Bellevue Blvd N., is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with trails open from sunrise to sunset. Cost of admission is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors 62 and up, $8 for children ages 2-17 and free for children under 2.