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Home > The Gateways Network > Tools > Water Trail Toolbox > Water Trail Toolbox: About Water Trails
Water Trail Toolbox: About Water Trails

Water trails connect scenic and historical sites along a riverway, lakeshore, or bay coastline for the recreational and educational benefit of paddlers, boaters, and other water users.

Water trails typically include points of interest, access locations, day-use sites, and camping areas that are shown in a map-and-guide brochure or booklet.

Trails may include both public and private lands with varying restrictions. Camping, for instance, may be restricted on some trails to those traveling by self-propelled craft and be open on other trails to powerboat users.

Why Establish a Water Trail?

Water trails apply and promote the following principles:

Partnerships: Private property owners, land managing agencies, regulatory agencies, user groups, and local businesses form partnerships to create and maintain a water trail.

Volunteerism: Dedicated individuals and volunteer organizations do most of the work creating, promoting, and maintaining water trails.

Stewardship: Water trails espouse minimum-impact practices and the Leave No Trace Code of Outdoor Ethics for waterways and adjacent lands. They cultivate stewards of the water, land, vegetation, wildlife, and other resources.

Education: Serving as outdoor classrooms, water trails promote an awareness of the natural and cultural attributes of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries through experiences involving the senses.

Conservation: Water trail activities support the conservation of the aquatic ecosystem and contiguous lands and build a constituency of resource protection and restoration advocates and watchdogs.

Connecting People and Places: Water trails connect individuals, families, and groups with a variety of hiking trails, bikeways, greenways, museums, historic sites, parks, and preserves. They cultivate a sense of place and love of community.

Diversity: Water trails benefit the able-bodied and the disabled, the young and the old, the disadvantaged and the advantaged. Through shared work and play, they foster tolerance and understanding .

Wellness and Well-being: Water trails provide wholesome, fresh-air activities that promote the physical fitness and health of participants.


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