The St. Joseph River in South Bend

by Nick Molnar on February 14, 2007

The St. Joseph River originates in Michigan, dips into Indiana, then curves North again to empty into Lake Michigan near Benton Harbor. In Indiana, the largest cities along it’s banks are Elkhart, Mishawaka, and South Bend. Each of these cites has managed its river frontage in a different way.

In Elkhart the banks are gradual, and there are many homes with yards backing to the water, effectively privatizing large swaths of the river. South Bend has roads running along the river so most of its riverside homes face the water across a road and don’t block it from the public. Mishwaka has a combination of private river homes and public riverfront parks.

Of the approaches, I prefer South Bend’s because it creates scenic drives along the river, especially on Northside Blvd and Riverside Dr. It also makes the East Bank Trail possible.

The East Bank Trail along the St. Joseph River is one of my favorite things about South Bend. I think of it as a to-scale and cozier version of Chicago’s lakeside path. On most any Spring, Summer or Fall day, you will find fishermen, runners, bikers, dog-walkers and stroller-pushers coursing its length. Travel the full three miles and you’ll pass a farmer’s market, an ice skating rink, downtown south bend, 13 bridges, three parks and a fitness station. You might also see Notre Dame’s rowing team practicing on the water.

Click play for a quick video tour of the trail. I’m still working on the best way to share videos on this site, so please forgive the choppy, low-res imagery. The trail is the ribbon of pavement to the right of the river, then the dark stip in the center of the screen where it splits from the river.  For more freedom and detail, fly to South Bend in Google Earth.

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East Bank Trail

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Phil Wray February 14, 2007 at 10:12 pm

I agree. The East Bank Trail in the area you describe must be experienced to be fully appreciated. I would suggest that one make their starting point even further east on Northside Blvd. at Indiana University. The Pedestrian Bridge (see:, crossing the river at IUSB was christened on Nov 30 of this year. The East Bank Trail is now on the north side of the meandering St. Joseph River.

By the way, you can post Michiana videos on my website.


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