Here’s how river conservation can help ecotourism

Across the country, gateway communities have realized connecting the community to local resources by protecting and restoring rivers and streams, creates an economic engine for the region.

Upsata Lake, Blackfoot River Valley, MT. | Joe Zimbric

Over the past decade, riverside towns across the country have discovered the benefits of being a “gateway” community – hosting visitors as they explore nearby National Monuments, National Forest areas, or access designated launch points for river expeditions. These gateway communities have also realized a connection to local resources by protecting and restoring rivers and streams, driving the economic engine of the region. While previously ignored, these communities have changed their outlook on rivers, understanding the benefits of a healthy ecosystem, and how recreation in river corridors can improve and sustain local economies. Communities have learned how to promote their natural amenities, and as a result have created “destinations,” resulting in evolving recreation and tourism opportunities.

To illustrate the benefits communities have discovered by protecting and restoring local rivers, American Rivers developed Ecotourism Benefits Through River Conservation – A Collection of Case Studies, a series of case studies highlighting gateway communities and how they have benefited from local river and land conservation. These towns frequently find visitors entering the communities to access parks and other recreation areas – staying in campgrounds and hotels, eating meals in town, purchasing supplies, and exploring the area’s natural and cultural resources. Learn more about these towns, and how your community can benefit by reading more here!

Each gateway community we present is unique, experiencing their own set of opportunities and challenges. However, they all share five common themes, enabling a journey towards becoming popular outdoor recreation destinations and hubs for ecotourism. Each of these themes revolve around the vital protection of nearby natural resources. These gateway communities have discovered local treasures – often hidden right before their eyes, and have embraced the evolution from an extraction-based economy to one that celebrates and sustains its livelihood through a recreation/tourism based existence.

Gateway Community Case Studies:

The following collection of case studies illustrates examples of communities developing and promoting and ecotourism ethic in communities across the country:

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