A Blue Trail is a river adopted by communities that are dedicated to improving family friendly recreation such as fishing, boating, hiking, and wildlife-watching, and to protecting rivers and surrounding lands. They are voluntary, locally led efforts that improve community quality of life.

You might be wondering, what’s the difference between a Blue Trail, paddle trail, water trail, and National Water Trail? They all have one important thing in common. They all help people enjoy their rivers through recreation.

What’s in the name?

“Blue Trail” is a term that American Rivers uses to describe our work. But we encourage communities to choose a name that is best for them. However, we encourage all communities interested in improving recreational access to look for opportunities to protect their river and riverside lands as part of their efforts to enhance river-based recreation.

For example, along the
Eagle River in Colorado, communities are improving family-friendly recreation through new access while at the same time protecting riverside land through conservation easements and land acquisition. These efforts not only forever protect important areas for fish and wildlife, but in many cases provide better opportunities for people to enjoy their river.

The Waccamaw River Blue Trail in the Carolinas connects urban and rural communities to protected places like the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and Waccamaw River Heritage Preserve. Communities realize the value of a healthy river and are working to improve zoning and ordinances along the Waccamaw. They are building support for a healthy river by improving recreational access to it.