Bess Reed Park

On the banks of the Clark Fork River, nestled between neighborhoods and hotels, sits Bess Reed Park. The picnic tables and luscious green grass attract people to come there to relax.  In autumn, the calm atmosphere and peaceful environment is perfect for those looking to escape the stress and business of daily life and let colorful leaves fall around them as they take their dog for a leisurely walk. There are some big leafy trees, many friendly squirrels, and a small flower garden, most likely taken care of by some neighborhood gardeners. If people enjoy sitting on a bench and looking out over the calm water of the Clark Fork after dinner, then this is the place to go.

One of the greatest features in the park is the riverside trail, which many runners, walkers and bikers frequently use.  Along the trail there are many benches for people to use while they stop and enjoy the view of the river. The park is also easily accessible day and night with two street entrances and lamps along the trail, making the park feel safe and comfortable, especially at night. The park’s close proximity to downtown makes it also a convenient place to enjoy lunch on various picnic tables or a nice leisure mid day stroll. Despite its location right off Higgins Street, Bess Reed Park’s quiet atmosphere is a great place to study for an upcoming test or enjoy time to yourself with minimal distractions.  On the other hand, if you’re looking to play a game of soccer or basketball, Bess Reed is not the place to host such an event. Due to the tree scattered lawn and random picnic tables, it does not create a conducive environment for such activities. If you’re enjoying an event or concert in the nearby Caras Park, Bess Reed offers time away from the crowds and noise.

All in all, Bess Reed Park is a nice cozy nook in the heart of Missoula, Montana where people come to enjoy time together or relax by themselves while reading a book or people watching. We all can benefit from Bess Reed Park’s solitude and peacefulness.

– Gavin Reim, Robin Spielman, Scott Mathson, and James Barnett

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Bonner Park

Bonner Park is a gorgeous park located southwest of the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.  This park offers a setting meant to create an enjoyable experience for people of all ages.  When looking for inexpensive things to do, Bonner Park is a perfect option.  Located in a residential neighborhood, the park covers two square blocks.

The park is very aesthetically pleasing in that it is covered in lush green grass with big trees that promote the natural beauty.  The center of the park is open with no trees and a grass field about the size of a soccer field.  Next to this spacious area is a small waterpark accessible to children, however this is only open part of the year.  The waterpark is situated on a concrete surface (similar to pools) and includes rings that shoot water, in-ground jets that spray water, and buckets that fill with water and eventually spill over onto those playing.  In addition to the water park, Bonner has an open-air stage area that occasionally hosts bands while spectators sit on the grass.  North of the stage is an enormous multi-level playground with a sand surface.  The playground includes structures with bridges and tunnels, monkey bars, swings, a slide, and a sandbox with built-in digging stations, making it a great place to bring your family.  Next to the playground is a roofed picnic area with bathrooms.  Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park, usually near trees for shade.  The northeast corner of the park includes an information plaque that states, “University Area Historic District/Listed in the National Register of Historic Places”.

The park includes a baseball diamond with bench seating for two teams. It also offers hard surface tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, and a basketball court, all of which make the park very appealing for athletes.  The physical setting of the park creates a highly inviting environment for a wide range of people.

Located two blocks off of both Arthur Avenue and Higgins Street, this park is accessible to people in both the surrounding neighborhood and the general community.  It can be easily accessed by walking, a short bike ride, or by bus.  It is also located a block away from the University.  This not only attracts families and their children, but also provides some security, as there is usually a police officer at the school.  Overall, Bonner is located in a prime area of Missoula.

Bonner Park offers a positive, aesthetic, and recreational area for the people who go there.  It is an inviting neighborhood park that provides a stress-free environment welcoming to all.  Bonner Park is the perfect option for all community members to enjoy being outdoors.

– Chris Schuler, Michael Ryan, and Ailsa Kiemle


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Caras Park

Caras Park is located in the heart of Missoula, nestled between the Clark Fork River and the Historic Wilma Theater. Caras Park is host to numerous events throughout the year. On any given weekend, one can find Missoulians celebrating with festivals, farmers markets, and community gatherings.

A grand pavilion, with equally impressive seating, is the first thing people will notice when they gaze down upon the park from the Higgins Street Bridge. This structure, combined with open grassy fields, benches, and paved biking trails, makes up the majority of Caras Park. The picturesque background of the Clark Fork River brands Caras Park as the perfect setting for all kinds of festivities. The park offers a wide range of recreation activities because it is located on the Clark Fork River. Kayakers, rafters, and paddle boarders can often be seen enjoying the thrill of Brennan’s Wave. For kids, a unique playground called Dragon’s Hollow is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon swinging and sliding. Next to Dragon’s Hollow, a historic Carousel built by community volunteers is a popular stopping place for children, locals, and tourists alike. The Carousel is a symbol of the community values of Missoula as a whole, focusing on fun and togetherness.

A typical Caras Park visitor can expect to have a socially active and community building experience; however, visitors can also acquire a peaceful experience if he or she chooses to visit on the less-crowded weekdays and partake in a solitary activity such as reading or watching the river. Caras Park is beneficial to the community because its events are all-inclusive and are so widely varied. The activities are geared towards people of all ages, making Caras Park a perfect place to meet friends and recreate with a group of people with similar interests. Its central location also lends itself as a meeting place, a bike route, and a family gathering spot. A park user could benefit physically by using the path as a jogging or biking trail or mentally by using the park as a break from every day life.

Caras Park is near multiple public transit stops, making it easy and cost effective to visit. Additional visitors can arrive via bike or on foot using the accessible river-side bike trail and the Higgins Street bridge. These trails, which are well-lit and well-maintained, make traveling to, from, or through Caras Park safe and easy. A large parking lot, coming off of Front Street, provides convenient public parking. Events at Caras Park are popular and vary in type, but are almost always free or extremely low-cost to attend.

Caras Park has a reputation around Missoula as a hotspot, so it virtually promotes itself. Locals are proud of Caras Park, spreading news of events through word-of-mouth or by posting flyers in popular visitation areas around town. The convenient downtown location on the waterfront makes the park the center of outdoor recreation and entertainment for all Missoulians.

– Angelina Gear, Amelia Remington, and Lyle Williams

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Clark Fork Natural Area

The Clark Fork Natural Area is a hidden oasis tucked away alongside the Clark Fork River and overlooking the historic city of downtown Missoula. With the Riverfront Trail System running through the park, it’s easy to access and experience its natural beauties. Come see the majestic displays of nature and experience the park for yourself; it is completely free of charge and not crowded. In fact, this park is a great place to find solitude.

This peaceful park has a slightly untamed air, with many natural shrubs growing throughout it. A grassy field would not provide the feeling of being secluded that this little park does. It’s a great place to take children, or anybody else, to provide a positive outdoor experience. You can learn about the nature around you from fun and interesting educational signs conveniently located around the park. For runners, it provides a place to take a break, get a drink, or stretch muscles. It’s also just as great to pass through on a bike ride, or perhaps a walk with your beloved dog. Fortunately, animal waste pick up bags and a water fountain are provided.  Another positive feature, especially during the summer, is the raspberry bushes planted along one of the trails.

For a more relaxing experience, the Clark Fork Natural Area has many benches overlooking the most scenic parts of the park that are comfortable and rustic in appearance. The Clark Fork Natural Area is very easy to locate as it appears on any map of the area and has signs at every entrance. If you come in a car, on street parking is very near to one of the main access bridges.

Located beside one of the many cozy residential areas of Missoula, everyone is encouraged to come and enjoy a safe time at the park. There are paved trails and beautifully constructed wooden bridges, making it wheelchair friendly. Also, bus route 7 of the Mountain Line passes right by this area;, just be sure to call for a stop before you reach the Orange St. Bridge! This park, one of the best in Missoula, can rejuvenate you mentally and physically.

– Steven Quinn and Kerry Shropshire

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Elms Park

Elms Park is one of Missoula’s unintentionally best-kept secrets for the family, individual, and dog owner looking for a place to enjoy an open area.  Elms Park can be enjoyed by anyone wanting to exercise the family dog, take a quiet stroll down the sidewalk in the shade of the trees, have a picnic lunch with your family or significant other, or play a game of soccer or football with your friends.  This enjoyment can all be had without risk of conflict with other visitors because the open area is so big, and is within walking distance of the University of Montana and a large portion of Missoula’s residential neighborhoods.

At first impression, it may not seem that Elms Park in Missoula, MT has much to offer.  In a sense, this would be correct.  Perhaps not having much to offer is this park’s greatest attribute.  When other nearby parks, such as Spartan, Playfair, and Campbell Parks, are hectic and full of activity, Elms Park remains quiet and peaceful.

One of the few amenities offered at Elms Park is the soccer field.  It is situated on the southern end of the park and runs north to south. It is advantageous to have a sports field run north to south, so that neither team is placed at a disadvantage in the morning and evening sunlight.  The goals for the soccer field are not permanently fixed and can be moved if it is necessary to do so.

Individuals or small groups looking to improve their health and overall fitness can use the open field for exercise.  The field can be made available for youth sports programs to use for soccer and/or football practice.

Elms Park caters to adults and teenagers who are either looking to be active out on the sports field or to relax at a picnic table enjoying the shade provided by the trees bordering the park.

On-street parking is available on either Agnes Avenue or Elms Park Drive.  There is rarely any problem finding a place to park.

Elms Park is located three blocks West of South Higgins Avenue, between Agnes Avenue and Pattee Creek Drive in Missoula, MT.  For more information, contact Missoula Parks & Recreation at (406) 721- PARK

 – Ethan Lee and Tristan Perisco

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Franklin Park

Come on Down to Franklin Park located on 10th and Kemp Street.

Don’t want to spend money on exercising in the gym or spend gas to get out of town? Take a quick visit to Franklin Park- its free and great fun for the whole family. With a covered picnic area, full size baseball diamond, basketball court, volleyball court, plenty of street parking and a partially fenced in playground, there is something for everybody! Franklin Park is convenient to get to, in a nice quiet neighborhood, right next to multiple bus stops and a block away from Franklin Elementary School.  During the summer there is a restroom and drinking fountains available.

Head over to the water park and have a splash on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for some exercise, there is a beautiful trail that goes around the park and follows a nice slow creek. With mature shade trees this park is lovely throughout the year. Bundle up in the colder weather, and enjoy the swings or take advantage of the nice open areas for a friendly snowball fight.

This is a family oriented park that is open all year around, well maintained and pet friendly. Franklin Park is a timeless piece of Missoula that you don’t want to miss out on!  Play basketball with your friends, run around the playground with your children, compete in a game of horseshoes with your buddies, or just enjoy the sunshine with a book at the picnic tables. Remember to bring your own equipment for playing ball or horseshoes. Franklin Park caters to recreationalists offering the simple ageless pleasures of fun family activities without the headache of costly admission or safety concerns.

For large parties, or get-togethers, you can reserve the BBQ picnic areas. The playground area is a perfect place to make memories that you will never forget!

While Franklin Park is not the best place to go bird watching or wildlife viewing, it is a great place to meet new people, arrange a play date for your kids, or take a jog with your dog.

Franklin Park has the wonderful feel of a small town park within a larger city, where everyone respects the space by cleaning up after themselves and being respectful to one another. So please make sure you do the same during your visit to help encourage and maintain the friendly hometown atmosphere Franklin Park provides.

– Katie DeYott, Alana Johnson, and Vasiliy Lemeza

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Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula is a beautiful, clean, and centrally located community park in Missoula Montana. With any visit here you will most likely run into locals participating in organized sports, especially the highly supported community youth activities. The park also serves as a place for parents to socialize and enjoy their free time as much as their kids do out on the field. There has been ongoing expansion and maintenance to the park, making it an excellent destination for free entertainment, something that is becoming harder and harder to find in today’s world. To sum up this park in one sentence, it offers a safe, pet friendly, family-oriented recreational area with multiple opportunities for all types of people. It is a gorgeous park that is well maintained and full of open space for a well-balanced mixture of relaxation and enjoyment.

The park is easily accessible to anyone and everyone interested in visiting — being centrally located at the intersection of South Avenue and South Reserve with nearby public transportation and plenty of parking. This park is also within walking distance from the surrounding residential areas. Students from Big Sky High School, right across the street, utilize this area for outdoor physical education as well as for scientific observations and exploration. Another perk for people visiting the park is the ability to appreciate the variety of amenities; there are restrooms, picnic areas, an off-leash fully enclosed dog park, water fountains, and vending machines. Also, during the hustle and bustle of summer sports events that take place there are concessions stands to feed hungry visitors.

In addition to the excellent recreational benefits of Fort Missoula, it also has a very important historical role in this area. It was established in 1877 by the United States Army and soon after was the formation site of the Civilian Conservation Corps. This opened the window for locals in the area to enjoy the wonderful space. Locals participating in activities here started back in the 1930’s.

This fort/park allowed people to advance in academics, expand their occupational skills, and take time for leisure activities or recreation. The park continues to grow and expand today as people utilize this area for social, physical, and psychological benefits. If you’re in the area, Fort Missoula is a must see!

“Friends of Fort Missoula Regional Park – Celebrating Our Heritage, Recreation and Community.” Friends of Fort Missoula Regional Park, 2012. Web 09 Sept 2012.

– Heather Robbins, Jake Thurman, and Austin Lindquist

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