Water Trail Toolbox: Producing Guide Materials
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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All but the most adventurous of boaters want a map of the water trail and information about sites—and hazards—they will encounter along the way. They want to know the locations of launching and parking areas, campsites, picnic areas, toilets, and other facilities. You can convey this information, safety tips, and management policies through map folders, guidebooks, signs, and orientation exhibits and websites. Properly written and designed, they can greatly enhance the water trail experience.

Map Folders or Brochure

Produce a simple foldout map and guide to help first-time users of the trail find their way. Such a folder may be the only publication that is needed to guide users on short day-use trails and overnight trails of 50 miles or less. Revise and update these handy tools when you print a new supply. Depending on your financial resources, distribute them as free publications or sales items.

Map and Guides

Create a water trail map and guide about the trail after testing the waters with the simple foldout map. You may find that a larger publication is both needed and desired by users to convey practical visit information in greater depth and to provide boaters with detailed inset maps of certain areas (such as directions to access points, water hazard areas, and dam portages). To widen the appeal of the map and guide, it could contain interpretive essays and features about the area's natural, historical, and recreational features. Depending on the number of pages, use of color, and other factors, map and guides can be costly to develop and print. Selling map and guides can be an important source of revenue for your water trail. This revenue can be used to fund a reprint of the map and guide and development of water trail facilities.


Develop a website so potential users can download and print out the water trail map and basic information to plan their trip. Increasingly, websites are the first places people search to get travel and recreation information. Keep the website up to date and, as time permits, add links to local outfitters, area accommodations, points of interest, and related sites.


Produce orientation, interpretive and wayfinding signs to increase the public's awareness of the trail, to direct visitors, to identify sites, and to indicate hazards. Hire a professional design firm to create a signage plan for the whole trail, so the signs will have a consistent appearance from one end to the other. The sign plan will also provide formats and instructions for adding and replacing signs in the future. [More on Trail Signs and Exhibits]

Wayside Exhibits

Install wayside exhibits at launch sites to provide orientation information, a map of the trail, safety tips, and regulations. As funds permit, produce wayside exhibits that interpret natural and human history stories related to stopping-off sites along the trail. Hire professionals to design and fabricate the exhibits and bases, so they convey a consistent, standard approach that will enhance the trail's identity. [More on Wayfinding Guides]

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