One of my favorite places to spend the afternoon is St. Patrick’s Park on the north side of South Bend. St. Pat’s is home to a wide array of activities – hiking, snow tubing, cross country skiing (more on that in the winter), educational programming, canoeing and kayaking. The park borders the St. Joseph River on the west and Michigan’s Madeline Bertrand Park to the north.
In the summer, St. Pat’s is one of the few places in town that rents canoes and kayaks. The park is a full service rental facility – they provide the boats, paddles, life vests, and they’ll also either pick you up at the end of your journey or drive you to the starting point, depending on which of the two routes you choose to take – Keller Park or Niles Dam. For both options, you meet at St. Pat’s Park to rent your equipment.
The Keller Park route is a 4.5 mile journey, which starts at the Keller Park boat launch and ends at the St. Pat’s boat launch. The journey takes about 1.5 hours and the views are mostly urban. The Niles Dam Route begins at St. Patrick’s County Park and ends just before Niles Dam (don’t worry – there are plenty of buoys and signs to warn you where to get out of the water). This journey takes about two hours to go the five miles.
I’ve done both routes and I definitely prefer the Niles Dam option – it’s much more scenic. While you’ll see homes along the river, you’ll also see a lot of forested areas and wetlands. Once you arrive in Niles, you call the Park office and they’ll send a van to pick you up. I would highly recommend packing a cooler of water and snacks for the journey, especially on a warm summer day.
In addition to canoeing and kayaking, St. Pat’s is a great place for an afternoon hike. I frequently bring my dog to the park to work out some of her energy. There are many trail options to choose from, and you can easily combine trails or walk into Madeline Bertrand Park for a longer hike.
On weekends from April 1 through October 31, there is a $4 gate fee to enter the park for in-county residents and a $5 fee for out-of-county residents. Fees also apply for the canoe and kayak rental – call the park for the current prices.
St. Patrick’s County Park
50651 Laurel Road
South Bend, Indiana 46637-1004