Enjoying Your Blue Trails

Cedar Creek, SC | Discover South Carolina

Cedar Creek, SC | Discover South Carolina

Rivers Connect Us – that statement is perfectly illustrated through Blue Trails. Blue Trails are a resource for families, friends, and communities to get back outside and enjoy the natural resources around them. By developing Blue Trails, communities not only provide outdoor recreation, but they protect the environment, enhance local economies, promote healthy living, preserve history and community identity and connect people and places.

Expanding Blue Trails is not only good for local communities, but also can be viewed as tool for economic growth. According to a study [PDF] by the Outdoor Industry Association, watersports alone in America directly accounts for $86 billion in revenue for businesses and creates 800,000 jobs!

Since 2007, American Rivers has actively been working in local communities across the country to develop Blue Trails. We are proud to be a leader in forming partnerships which engage individuals, communities, and governments in expanding outdoor recreational opportunities.

To advance Blue Trails, American Rivers has developed the Blue Trails Guide, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to develop a blue trail on your local river. In 2012, American Rivers partnered with the National Park Service to create River Stories, a unique tool that helps people discover some of our nation’s already developed blue trails, by interactively floating down several rivers.

A few of our key on-the-ground projects include Blue Trails on the Verde, Congaree, Waccamaw, and Wateree Rivers.

Verde River Blue Trail, AZ

Verde River Blue Trail, AZ | © Doug Von Gausig

The Verde River is a 200 mile long journey through history. As river-recreationist travel down the Verde they pass through lush forests, diverse wildlife, and aboriginal cliff dwellings dating back thousands of years. The Town of Clarkdale, AZ has been a great steward for the development of the Verde Trail.

As key partners, American Rivers and Clarkdale are creating new boat launches, a wildlife and river viewing platform, and a waterproof map of the Verde River Blue Trail.

Congaree/Wateree River Blue Trails, SC

Congaree River Blue Trail, SC | © Jamie Mierau

Congaree River Blue Trail, SC | © Jamie Mierau

South Carolina is home to two very impressive Blue Trails that converge at Congaree National Park. To the north of Congaree National Park is the 75 mile Wateree River Blue Trail. Since the Wateree River was designated a blue trail in 2010 by Kershaw County, it has been a sanctuary for paddlers and wildlife.

Flowing southeast from Columbia, SC, the 50 mile Congaree River Blue Trail offers an escape for urban dwellers to get out of the city and explore the rich ecological diversity of the Congaree National Park.

The Congraree and Wateree have proved to be indepsensible assets to the South Carolina, educational programs, and nature enthusiasts. The Congaree National Park is home to one of the last significant tracts of old growth forests and boasts 90 different tree species.

Waccamaw River Blue Trail, SC

Waccamaw River Blue Trail, SC | © Charles Slate

Waccamaw River Blue Trail, SC | © Charles Slate

Known as one of the best black water rivers in the Southeast, the Waccamaw River Blue Trail offers over 100 miles of history and unique ecology. As paddlers journey down the river they will stumble across historic Native American settlements, Civil War sites, rice fields and indigo plantations. To further protect the clean waters of the Waccamaw, the Department of Interior has named the Waccamaw River Blue Trail as a priority project for America’s Great Outdoors.

Although the communities that protect these Blue Trails make conservation a priority, you don’t have to travel very far to see the impacts poor water management has on rivers. Both the Wateree and the Verde Rivers are tributaries to rivers in the 2013 America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report.

The Verde is a tributary of the Colorado River, the #1 Most Endangered River in 2013! The headwaters of the Wateree River are formed in North Carolina on the Catawba River, which is currently threatened by coal ash pollution caused by a local power plant. For our nation’s rivers to continue to be a resource for clean water and recreation we need continued collaboration between individuals, communities, and government agencies.