Kids in the Wild

There's no better place to get dirty!

River Bend developed the Kids in the Wild outdoor play area solely for the purpose of providing youngsters with a wonderful place to play in the woods.
How to Get to Kids in the Wild
Kids in the Wild play area is just a short walk down the hill from the south end of the main parking lot. At the big map and kiosk take the left path until you see the Kids in the Wild sign.

Kids in the Wild Map



GPS & Geocaching at River Bend

Location of River Bend's main Interpretive Center building: 15 480722E - 4902728N (WGS84-UTM) 44 16.649N - 093 14.500W (WGS84-Lat/Lon)

While River Bend is welcoming to geocaching activities, a few guidelines have been established to protect the nature of River Bend and the overall experience of River Bend's visitors. Those searching for existing caches are welcome to do so, of course, as long as they follow River Bend's visitor regulations. However the following guidelines are in effect for anyone who wishes to place a cache of any sort within River Bend Nature Center.


Picnic Areas

River Bend offers three unique areas to picnic with your group. Garbage collection is not provided at sites. Please take your refuse with you when done.

Upper Parking Lot

  • Adjacent to upper parking lot
  • Mostly shady, with partial sun
  • 2-3 moveable picnic tables
  • Two fire rings
  • Near marsh overlook, sping, waterfall, pond, woods
  • Rarely used for organized programs and events
  • No bathrooms or drinking fountain

Interpretive Center Lawn

  • Adjacent to parking lot & Interpretive Center
  • Mostly sunny, very little shade
  • 3-4 moveable picnic tables, one handicapped accessible
  • No fire rings
  • Near main trail head
  • Often used for school & public programs
  • Outdoor drinking fountain (shut off in winter)
  • Bathrooms & drinking fountain in Interpretive Center during open hours

Trailside Knoll

  • 100-yard walk from main parking lot (accessible by paved trails)
  • Mostly shade, some sun
  • 4-5 moveable picnic tables, one handicapped accessible
  • One fire ring
  • Covered patio shelter (not pictured)
  • Often used for school programs & summer cmaps
  • Closest picnic area to river
  • Has drinking fountain (turned off in winter), but 150 yards away from above Interpretive Center with bathrooms (which are only available during open hours)

Running at River Bend

While there are a multitude of ways to enjoy all that River Bend Nature Center has to offer, one of my personal favorites is to take in the sights and sounds while running. There are numerous ways to link up the ten miles of trails at RBNC; here are four of my favorite runs under five miles complete with maps from (Unfortunately doesn’t include the overlook trail, but any run on walnut should include a trip up overlook.)

1. The Southside Loop (

This run takes you to explore the trails on the south side of the Straight River.  These are some of my favorite trails to run at River Bend.  From the Interpretive Center run along Oak or Turtle until you come to Arrowhead.  Follow Arrowhead along the river to the railroad underpass and take Rabbit to the Dairy Lane bridge, this is one of my favorite trails at RBNC. Once you cross the bridge explore the hilly trails of the south side, I mapped a loop around the outer edge, but all of these trails are fantastically fun.  When you’ve had your fill of the hills head back along Dairy Lane to Teepee Tonka and then Wood Duck to complete your 4.5 mile loop to the Interpretive Center.

2. Short Cherry Loop (

This loop is a quick run of just over two miles that highlights one of my absolute favorite trails at River Bend: Cherry.  Head out from the Interpretative Center down to Turtle Pond and take a moment to look for frogs and turtles before continuing down Oak to Deer.  Run through the woods on Deer to Raspberry until you reach Cherry.  Cherry will take you up rolling hills to the east cemetery of the old Regional Center, for the history enthusiast this can be fascinating place to stop and catch your breath.  From here cross Rustad Road at the Upper parking lot and follow Raccoon back to the Interpretive Center.

3. Long Cherry Loop (

For those runners wanting a longer loop that still takes in Cherry follow the route described above until you reach the upper parking lot.  From there follow Raccoon towards the nature center entrance to Walnut. Turn on to Walnut and follow it to where it intersects with Overlook,  from here take Overlook for a good climb and a fun stretch of single-track or continue on Walnut for an easier run.  Follow Walnut back to Raccoon and then pick up Maple around to Owl.  Be careful on the fast descents on these trails!  Follow the big hill on Owl past our Kids in the Wild play area back to the Interpretive Center for a 3.5 mile loop.

4. Hills and River Loop (

This is my favorite run to do at River Bend I include parts of it almost every time I run at RBNC.  Head out from the Interpretive Center down to Honor Point and the big hill on Trout Lily.  Take it easy on the flats along the river because once we hit Owl this run starts to get tough. Follow Owl up the steep hill to Maple and continue climbing up the big hill and around the corner to Walnut.  Walnut brings you to Overlook where you can run up the stairs to the RBNC’s high point. From here drop down to the Prairie Loop and cross Rustad Road.  Drop down to Arrowhead and enjoy a cruise along the river before one last climb to finish this 3.5 mile loop.

This is merely a sample of the opportunities for running at River Bend, get out and explore all of the trails and find your own favorites.  Combine these loops into longer runs, or link them to the paved city trails.  The most important thing is to get out and enjoy getting fit in the woods and prairies of River Bend Nature Center!



Snowshoe Rental & Cross-Country Ski Trails

Snowshoes & Cross-Country Ski Equipment Available for Rent Monday - Friday 9:30 am to 4 pm Saturday - 9:30 am to 3 pm

Daily Rental Fees
$5/person for River Bend members; $10/person nonmembers

Ski Bundle (includes a pair of skis, boots, and poles):
$5/person for members; $10/person for nonmembers

Skis, boots, or poles rental only:
$2 for members; $4 for nonmembers

Cross-Country Ski Trails
Enjoy five miles of cross-country ski trails. A wonderful group of volunteers keeps our trails groomed, plus we receive assistance from the DNR Trails to maintain them. While the use of our trails is free, a ski pass is required for all skiers age 16 or above on MN cross-country ski trails built or maintained with state funds. Accordingly, a Great MN Ski Pass is required on all River Bend trails. A ski pass can be purchased at your local DNR or anywhere where a hunting or fishing license can be purchased. For details on where to purchase the Great MN Ski Pass visit:

Trail Hours:
Every Day 6am to 10pm

View our Trail Map (PDF)

Trails are usually groomed the day after a new snow. You may check the current status of our ski trails on our web site once the season begins.

Snowshoe Information

Snowshoe Styles Available at River Bend

Good for heavy woods and frequent turning. High maneuverability.

Bearpaw Snowshoe

Green Mountain
Best for heavily wooded, hilly areas.Green Mountain Snowshoe Style
Good for open or wooded areas. Tails allow for easier, straight-line travel.Michigan Style Showshoe
Good for open areas and deep snow. Fastest snowshoe in open areas.Alaskan Style Snowshoe

Tips on Using Snowshoes


  • Stand upright keeping weight on your heels
  • Keep your toes up
  • It is not necessary to walk with your feet far apart

Travelling uphill

  • Walk up hill at an angle if possible
  • If going straight uphill, point toes out and dig inside edges into snow


  • Change direction slowly, taking small steps


  • Travel around fallen trees and rocks or step completely over them
  • Do not step partially on an object– snowshoes are likely to break
  • Stay off the ice on the river
  • Do not walk on groomed ski trails
Snowshoe History & Uses

Snowshoeing was believed to have begun in Central Asia about 6,000 years ago.  This was an important invention that may have allowed for the migration over the Bering Strait and eventual colonization of North and South America.

In the past two centuries snowshoeing has become an important part of North American traditions and culture in both Canada and the United States.  Community activities including snowshoe clubs and group snowshoe hikes have increased in popularity.

Some of the people who currently make use of snowshoes include recreational users, trappers, hunters, surveyors, soldiers, prospectors, and foresters. Snowshoes work well for any person who spends time walking in deep snow.  The snowshoe is designed to spread a person’s body weight out over the snow allowing him or her to walk more on top of the snow than would be possible without snowshoes.