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Through comprehensive trail guides, signage, public outreach and informative classes, water trail organizations encourage awareness of the natural, cultural and historical attributes of the trail. Serving as outdoor classrooms, water trails teach through seeing, listening, touching and experiencing. Water trail activities also support the conservation of the aquatic ecosystem and adjacent lands.

The North American Water Trails Association (NAWT) is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to opening recreational access to North America's wealth of waters. NAWT has developed a set of guiding principals for establishing effective water trails, which are outlined below. Partnerships: cooperating and sharing. A water trail is the product of partnerships among governmental and non-governmental entities with volunteers as the key supporters and advocates of the trail. Together, these groups create and maintain a successful water trail with broad-based and long-term support. Stewardship: "Leave No Trace". Water trails promote minimum-impact practices that ensure a sustainable future for the waterways and adjacent lands. Water trails embrace the "Leave No Trace Code of Outdoor Ethics" that promotes the responsible use and enjoyment of the outdoors. A trail user who is educated to respect the quality of affected water, land, vegetation and wildlife habitat is a good caretaker. Volunteerism: experiencing the joy of involvement. Most water trails are created, promoted and maintained through the energy and dedication of local citizens, working individually and through "friends" organizations. Community involvement and volunteerism are the keys to developing a sense of trail stewardship, promoting the trail within the community, encouraging respect for the Water Access and Blueways trail's natural and cultural heritage, and ensuring that local governments support the trail's existence.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
600 E. Main St., 24th Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230

American Canoe Association

Water Trail Toolbox: How to Plan Build and Manage a Water Trail.


Getchell, David. 2000. North American Water Trails: A Guide to Establishing and Maintaining Recreational Waterways on Fresh and Saltwater. Washington, D.C.: North American Water Trails, Inc.

Roger Moore and Thomas Ross. 1998. Trails and Recreational
Greenways: Corridors of Benefits Parks & Recreation
, January.

Corbet, Roger. Virginia Whitewater. Seneca Press, 1977.