Prepare to Launch!

Guidelines for accessing, designing, and building launch sites for carry-in watercraft.

by National Park Service

Why This Document: To help facility and trail planners, and park and recreation project leaders when planning, building, or updating access sites that are tailored to the needs of the canoeists, kayakers, tubers, stand-up paddlers, rowers, or small craft sailors (commonly referred to as “paddlers” in this document). Prepare to Launch! will help with:

• Understanding Launch Locations by addressing shoreline characteristics along rivers, lakes, and bays

• Addressing Users’ Launch Needs by looking at the various types of users and watercraft, amount of traffic, and accessibility needs

• Understanding Launch Design Criteria that can be shared with a contractor, engineer, or designer, depending on the complexity of the site

• Promoting Your Launch Project by offering tips to help make decisions about appropriate launch design and construction and by helping to organize examples that can then help gain community support and fundraising.

About the Author


The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 and today manages over 390 units found in all 50 states and some of the U.S. territories. NPS supports and operates trails in three interlocking arenas: trails in parks, technical assistance to States and communities, and administration of much of the National Trails System.

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