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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Quinebaug River Water Trail - Massachusetts and Connecticut

The Quinebaug River Water Trail offers 45 miles of paddling within an hour's drive of three of New England's largest urban regions. It begins in Holland, Massachusetts and ends in Canterbury, Connecticut.

arrow Also see the Quinebaug River Water Trail - Thompson Lake section, Connecticut


By John Monroe, Rivers & Trails Program, National Park Service


photo of smooth canoe ramp with retaining walls

Launch and Portage site on the Quinebaug Water Trail is an enhancement
to the 4-1/4 mile Quinebaug Rail Trail through West Dudley, MA

The Quinebaug River Water Trail flows through south-central Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut, offering 45 miles of paddling within an hour's drive of three of New England's largest cities. Many of the segments provide an opportunity for family-friendly, close-to-home outdoor adventures with a surprisingly remote feel. Wildlife is abundant and the only traces of civilization are the remnants of old mills.

This region is known as The Last Green Valley because it is a relatively undeveloped rural enclave in the midst of the most urbanized region in the nation. The Last Green Valley is 78% forest and farmland, and appears distinctively dark at night when viewed from satellites or aircraft.

Paddlers will pass by agricultural fields, steep forested banks, groves of flowering dogwoods and sycamore trees. There are quiet coves, islands, and marshes to explore, as well as challenging stretches of Class II rapids for more experienced paddlers. Small mouth bass and trout are abundant, and you will likely see Great Blue Heron and sometimes Bald Eagles.

photo of canoes on tree-lined river

The Last Green Valley is also more formally known as the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor. The Quinebaug River eventually joins the Shetucket River to become the Thames River, creating the third largest watershed emptying into Long Island Sound. 

Within the National Heritage Corridor are several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control projects. The Corps led the way in 2007 by nominating the first National Recreation Trail segment at the top of the Quinebaug River, from Holland Pond to East Brimfield Lake.

This plus five more segments add up to nearly 45 miles of paddling. From family-friendly and meandering to swift and challenging, the Quinebaug River Water Trail provides a wide variety of paddling experiences. Note that not all segments are contiguous. Dams left over from the days of water-powered industry create some impassable sections. For details, download the Quinebaug River Paddle Guide here.

photo of smiling man with paddle in canoe

On the river


The Last Green Valley, Inc. (TLGV) and the US Army Corps of Engineers have partnered with many federal and state agencies, non-profits, riverside towns, and paddlers to promote enjoyment and stewardship of rivers throughout the watershed. The Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service is assisting with upcoming segments and a video project. Thanks to a Challenge Cost-Share grant from the National Park Service, TLGV is working with many volunteers to produce video segments highlighting the water trail.

In 2014, there are already more than 40 paddle outings and presentations scheduled on and around the Quinebaug River Water Trail, including full moon paddles, river festivals, and family paddle outings.


For more information:


The Launch and Portage site on the Quinebaug Water Trai l(top photo) is an enhancement to the 4-1/4 mile Quinebaug Rail Trail through West Dudley, Massachusetts. The Launch Site was funded by the Janet Malser Humanities Trust; Design by J & D Civil Engineers; Environmental permitting by Dudley Conservation Commissioners; Constructed by Dudley Highway Department; Project Site, Planner & Coordinator: Ken Butkiewicz, Dudley Rail Trail Commissioner.


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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