Columbia Bottom is actually two trails, the River Confluence Trail, and the River's Edge Trail, which make a kind of loop connected at the start/end point of the river's access point, with the remaining trail from that point to the visitor's center. The 4.75 Confluence Trail is an open, paved path. I can see how it could be nice in the winter because it's very wide open flood plain with a lot of sun... it actually got kind of hot while I was walking, and I was glad I had remembered to put on sunblock. The pavement walking by the end was getting kind of hard on my shins, probably because I had worn my hiking boots (or because I'm out of shape and by 7 miles was getting very tired... we had also kept up a very brisk pace). The scenery is very pretty though, in a bare way. EVerything was brown and golden in the late November season, but the tree line next to the river is tall and the floodplan is full of marshes and trees and crops, with lots of birds.
The 3 mile River's Edge Trail was a lot more rugged than I was expecting considering how paved the Confluence Trail is. It really does ramble right along the edge of the Missouri on a dirt path with small ups and downs. The surrounding forest looks almost like a jungle with all the vines hanging, even without leaves, and there were times where you were pretty much on an overhang with the river underneath you, which lent a nice breeze on the very warm day. The River's Edge trail ends at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, which is a really neat thing to visit, where the park has a nice spot to overlook the place where the two rivers converge as you stop and rest. I liked the River's Edge trail a lot, and it was a really nice different pace than the open paved path of the confluence trail. Both were very nicely marked.
Our main issue was that after walking from the visitors center to the confluence point via the River's Edge trail, we found the second part of the Confluence Trail closed for maintenance. Not only had there been no signs up anywhere in the entire park, but nobody at the visitor's center had let us know. I found this strange, almost as if the sign had been left up by accident because there was no sign stopping us from being on the trail had we started on the other edge of the Confluence Trail. Because neither Ashley nor I wanted to go back the way we had come, we opted to walk the car road back to the river access point... probably not the best choice as it winded a lot and was very hot without the shade of the river side trees.
I have had issues with the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area before. The first time I went quite a few years ago with my father, we stopped at the visitors center and everything and drove down the river access point only to find the Confluence Trail was blocked with a sign saying it was closed. Once again, no warnings at the visitor center had been posted, nor did any of the workers say anything when we asked about trail length. I understand that trails need to be closed to be maintained, and that the Missouri Conservation areas are not getting a lot of money, but it would have been nice if Ashley and I hadn't found ourselves without a trail after nearly 5 miles of walking.
All in all, though, I felt very accomplished to have walked what we did, and the scenery was lovely and kind of different, with a lot of history.