Water Trails Management

Rivers are trails. They invite a visitor to put in and travel a distance to a destination or simply float to another landing upstream or downstream. Water trails are acknowledged water-based routes promoted as designated recreational segments.

They were first promoted as a concept in the 1960s, and Minnesota kicked off a formal acknowledgement of the water trails movement. As water trails directors, planners, volunteers, funders and suppliers you can do your job best when you know where to look for resources, and RMS is of those resources!

What is a water trail?

Man Kayaking

The National Water Trails System is a network of water trails open to the public to explore and enjoy. The system also serves as a community of water resource managers that benefit from information sharing and collaboration. National Water Trails are a sub-set of the National Recreation Trails Program. National Water Trails have been established to protect and restore America’s rivers, shorelines, and waterways; conserve natural areas along waterways; and increase access to outdoor recreation on shorelines and waterways. The Trails are a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails that are cooperatively supported and sustained.

- National Water Trails System, National Park Service

Public Access Guide for Landowners and Water Trails and River Managers

This is an easy-to-understand guide on a serious topic that often draws questions from water trails directors, managers and volunteers. It is written in plain English and offered in two formats, as a Report and Slideshow Presentation (click the link to download or scroll below).

RMS is enthusiastically appreciative of the effort by many on this project, particularly RMS intern Jack Henderson, and both Corita Waters and Lelia Mellen, National Park Service. Additional acknowledgements are noted in the documents.

Prepare to Launch! Guidelines For Assessing, Designing & Building Access Sites For Carry-In Watercraft

Prepare to Launch! is a resource designed by RMS,  National Park Service Rivers, Trails and the Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program to help facility and trail planners and park and recreation project leaders plan and build or update an access site tailored to the needs of canoeists, kayakers, tubers, stand-up paddlers, or small craft sailors. It guides a reader through the development process from conception to design creation, and provides a variety of launch construction options. Here's a link on this site to various options for seeing, learning and downloading the Prepare to Launch resources.

Making an Economic Case for Water Trails

In 2015, RMS conducted a review of public studies conducted to measure the economic impact of water trails. Interestingly, there were not many to be found!  There are dozens of articles written and presentations presented selling the concept of water trails, river trails, blue trails, blueways and greenways. We're not sure if these are meant to be as different as they sound: they are all waterways connected and collaboratively managed by cooperating communities, jurisdictions and local business interests.

Review the Making an Economic Argument for Water Trails report.

The video presentation (below) summarizing the review of economic studies conducted for water trails. The presenter is Natalie Warren, RMS intern, who presented her findings at the 2015 National Water Trails Forum. The following documents are referenced in the summary:

Other Water Trails Resources

RMS members: Email RMS a link to your water trail guide!

 Water Trails Videos

Paddle Forward: the Mississippi River

Young adults, early career professional are discovering the congruence and overlaps between pursuing a love of rivers and creating a professional path. This program of the Wild River Academy (formed as a result of a canoe trip down the length of the Mississippi River) is creating space in the lives of young adults to enjoy paddling, yes...and to discover the complexity involved in the management of our precious, mighty rivers.

Watch the video

2015 National Water Trails Forum 

Learn how water trails organizations valued the networking, training and sharing they experienced at this first- ever National Water Trails Forum.

Watch the Video