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Oregon Water Trails

Overview

OPRD has been engaged in scenic waterway management and water recreation for decades.  The Department of State Lands has had ongoing issues relating to the use of waterways for recreation and upland landowners rights.  The water trail program began to take hold with the, Willamette River being designated as one of only fourteen (14) American Heritage Rivers by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1998.  That same year, Governor John Kitzhaber signed executive order 98-18 establishing the Willamette Restoration Initiative (WRI) to promote, integrate and coordinate efforts to protect and restore the Willamette watershed. 
 
Govenor Kulongoski implemented his Willamette River Legacy Plan which was created to “repair, restore, and recreate” on the Willamette.  Congresswoman Darlene Hooley also provided considerable assistance to the water trail effort.  The water trails program formed out of the efforts to manage conflicts with upland landowners and the focus on re-creating the Willamette River as a public resource. 
 
The 2005 State Trails Plan reflected this by completing a Water Trails Plan for Oregon.  This plan created the foundations for OPRD’s Water Trail Program.  The key statewide water trail issues were:
 
•    Need to address conflicts between non-motorized boaters and waterfront property owners

•    Need for more public access to waterways

•    Need for adequate and consistent information resources including signs, maps, levels of difficult
      and water level information and available paddling opportunities
 
 
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Defining Water Trails

Water trails are stretches of river, shorelines, or lakes that have been mapped out with the intent to create an educational, scenic, and rewarding experience for recreational canoeists and kayakers.  Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) defines water trails as “corridors between specific locations on a lake, river or ocean. 

Water trails are primarily designed for small watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, rafts and drift boats. Necessary water trail facilities include a safe place for the public to put in, parking, restrooms, a safe place to take out, and in some cases day-use sites and overnight campsites. Water trails offer a variety of challenge levels on white water, moving water, flat water and tidewater and emphasize low-impact use and provide stewardship of the resource.”
 
 
 
To be considered a water trail needs to have:

 
•    Waterway – a water body accessible by paddle craft with existing, multiple public accesses and
     opportunities for overnight and day use activities.
 
 
•    Basic Facilities – safe ingresses and egresses, designated and signed parking for vehicles, and
      sanitation facilities at access points.
 
 
•    Trail Manager – nonprofit, public agency or water trail association responsible for the overall
      coordination of the management and maintenance of any facilities and website associated with
      the water trail.
 
 
•    Management Plan – addresses linking public resources, Leave No Trace, general recreational use,
      public access, private property protection, signage, day use, overnight and restroom facilities,
      overall issues; identifies the Trail Manager and Trail Partners, facility inventory and future needs
      by responsible Partner, potential funding sources.
 
 
 
•    Water Trail Guide – published, water proof, water trail guide that includes standard information
      requirements (river miles, Leave No Trace, public access, navigational hazards, interpretive
      information, emergency contact information, and river etiquette).
 
 
•    Water Trail Web Site – electronic access to the published guide and management plan, manager
      contact information, day and overnight route suggestions, navigation warnings, and a link to the
      state trails website.
 
 
•    Local Government Support – letters expressing support of the water trail management plan.
 
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Water Trail Planning

OPRD has established guidelines for establishing a water trail network throughout Oregon.  We have tested this model on several water trail planning efforts and have found that this process for planning is simple and effective.
 
 

Phase I – Introduction of the Water Trail Concept
Water Trail Length – select a potential water body that is accessible by paddle craft.

Partner Identification – invite the public, user groups, interested parties, landowners, local, state and federal agencies to discuss the development of a water trail and associated management plan.  Identify who should be at the table that is not; who is at the table that does not have an interest.

Land Ownership – map the ownership of the lands adjacent to the water trail; identify existing public accesses, existing amenities, navigational hazards and private property boundaries. 

Issue Identification – start list of issues such as trespass, litter, camping, sanitation, overnight parking, etc.

Phase II – Development of the Water Trail
Water Trail Length – determine the beginning and ending river miles of the water trail.  Identify appropriate day and overnight routes and navigation hazards.
Links to Upland Resources – identify terrestrial trails, local lodging and dining facilities, interpretive areas and other areas of general interest accessible from the water trail.

Trail Manager – work with the Partners to select the nonprofit, public agency or water trail association that will be responsible for the overall coordination of the management and maintenance of any facilities and website associated with the water trail.

Water Trail Guide – with the assistance of the Partners, Trail Manager solicits vendors to design and print the guide.  Identify a sub-group of the Partners to begin drafting the interpretive and informational text. 

Website – with the assistance of the Partners, Trail Manager begins development of the website.

Management Plan – begin the development of a management plan that identifies the Trail Manager and Trail Partners, facility inventory and future needs by responsible Partner, potential funding sources.  This plan will address linking public resources, Leave No Trace, general recreational use, public access, private property protection, signage, day use, overnight and restroom facilities, and other overall issues.

Phase III – Dedication of the Water Trail
Water Trail Guide – publication is ready for public release.
Website – water trail guide is available electronically.  The entire guide or portions thereof will be accessible.  Contact information, navigation hazards, and links to other trail websites will be available.  Provide information on the new website to OPRD so that we can assist in promoting your dedicated water trail with the other water trails in Oregon.

Management Plan – this plan will be finalized and presented to local governments for their approval.  Local Government approval does not require adoption or ordinance.

Phase IV – Ongoing Coordination
The water trail manager will organize annual meetings of the Partners to identify accomplishments, issues, needs and funding sources.
 
Water trails are rivers or lakes that act as corridors or "trails." Water trail facilities are legal and safe put-ins and take-outs, parking, restrooms and camping, all designed for kayaks, canoes, drift boats and other small, motor-free water craft.
 
Some of Oregon's water trails were completely grassroots driven and some were developed by a coalition of private groups and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The need for water trails grew out of several issues including:
 
* A need to address conflicts between motorized and non-motorized boaters.
 
* The need for more public access to Oregon's waterways.

* The need for consistent information including signs and maps. 
 
This site is one place to find all of Oregon's water trails listed with links for more information and for timely alerts and announcements. 

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The American Canoe Association (ACA) has information about all forms of paddlesports, as well as safety tips, events and other related resources. Here are some of their links with useful information:

Main site: http://www.americancanoe.org/

ACA recommended water trail directory:

http://www.americancanoe.org/search/custom.asp?id=2080 

 

 

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