The National Water Trails System, a network of 22 rivers, lakes and other waterway trails, designated as such by the U.S. Department of Interior, offers recreational opportunities and history lessons in scenic regions of the U.S. Here are five to consider:
1. The Missouri National Recreational River Water Trail, Iowa and South Dakota. How did the Missouri River appear to Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago? Explore some of the last remaining natural stretches of America’s longest river, on the lookout for scenic vistas and contemplating history. The trail extends from Fort Randall Dam near Pickstown, South Dakota, to Sioux City, Iowa.
2. Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail, Ohio. In southwest Ohio, families can access 291 miles of paddling, fishing and wildlife watching on three rivers and numerous smaller tributaries, including the Great Miami River, Stillwater River, Mad River, as well as Twin, Greenville and Buck Creeks. You’ll also find white-water and kayak parks, world-class fishing and more than 100 natural and urban parks in the region.
3. Willamette Water Trail, Oregon. This 216-mile trail flows north from the Oregon Coastal Range, through rural landscapes, past Corvallis and Eugene, through the urban Portland area and into the Columbia River. Paddlers can use a waterproof map or the website to find campsites, picnic areas, parks and historical points of interest and to track river features. Guide and shuttle services are available.
4. Bayou Teche Paddle Trail, Louisiana. Look out for wood ducks, herons, kingfishers and warblers as you paddle a stretch of this 135-mile trail, named by the Chitimacha tribe and lined with cypress trees and live oaks dripping Spanish moss. Each town along the trail offers history, architecture, music and art worth further exploration. Choose from 13 possible access points.
5. The Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, New York. Make use of the website’s interactive “plan your trip” feature to craft an outing within this scenic region that stretches from the Adirondacks to Battery Park in Manhattan. With more than 100 designated access points and camp sites located approximately every 15 miles, paddlers can choose from day trips or multi day journeys along the 256-mile trail.