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The America’s Great Outdoors report, announced in 2011 by the US Interior Department, includes a recommendation on establishing a National Recreational Blueway Trails Initiative. The Chattahoochee River Water Trail in Georgia will be the first project to be included as a National Water Trail under the new system.

arrow Read about the National Recreational Blueway Trails Initiative

arrow Learn about National Water Trails System designation

arrow See more resources on water trails


Interior Department unveils National Water Trails System

American Trails, in its role as lead nonprofit for the National Recreation Trails program, continues participating in discussions on this program with the Federal land management agencies, as well as the many national organizations that support land and water trails. Learn about National Water Trails System designation...


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Secretarial Order that establishes national water trails as a class of national recreational trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

photo of canoes on river bank

The Chattahoochee River Water Trail has been designated as a National
Water Trail

The February 29 order sets the framework for Secretarial designation of a nationwide system of water trails. The Department of the Interior stated that the goal is to “help facilitate outdoor recreation on waterways in and around urban areas, and provide national recognition and resources to existing, local water trails.”

The Chattahoochee River Water Trail in Georgia will be the first river to be included as a National Water Trail under the new system. The paddling route designated runs 48 miles through the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The park and new water trail contain 18 developed public access points and connects with other local city and county parks.

“As our nation opens a new chapter on rivers— one where we value our waterways for their recreational, economic, and ecological importance— it is fitting that the Chattahoochee River Water Trail leads the way,” Salazar said.

According to the Department, “With each designation, signage, technical assistance and resources will be provided to build on and promote the development of quality water trails. Water trails that are designated can become catalysts for restoring the health of local waterways throughout the community.”

The National Trails System is composed of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. Although National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an Act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture.

Under the Secretarial Order, the National Park Service will coordinate the water trail nomination process.

The America’s Great Outdoors report by the US Department of the Interior, includes a recommendation on establishing a National Recreational Blueway Trails Initiative. American Rivers, a national conservation and recreation organization, has been working to improve the visibility of water trails through Federal recognition. In a 2010 paper, "Establishing a National Blueways Initiative," American Rivers declares that "the U.S. Department of the Interior should establish a national Blueways Initiative focusing on the development and protection of water trails across the country under existing authority of the National Trails System Act."

For more background on the National Water Trails System, see an article on National Blueways Initiative proposed in America’s Great Outdoors report.

arrow Download the Secretarial Order establishing the National Water Trails System (pdf 659 kb)

arrow See the National Park Service water trails website

For more information on National Recreation Trails:

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