A: National Water Trails System applications should be submitted by November 1 and May 1 each year; edits can be completed on a continual basis. For more information on the application requirements and directions, go to the application.
A: As long as the proposed water trail meets the necessary designation criteria and best management practices
, the type and setting of the proposed water trail can vary considerably. Eligible water trails can exist on streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and ocean fronts. They can provide a variety of water-based recreation and education opportunities, including rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, shoreline camping, scenic overlooks, interpretative and educational media, and other diverse opportunities. Eligible water trails can exist in both urban and rural settings and run across both public and private lands (as long as land owners agree to their presence and use). For more information, read our national water trails definition
A: Each designated national water trail is managed by a local management entity (e.g., local, state, or federal government agency, nonprofit organization, interagency organization, etc.). In most cases, these local water trail managers will have a website, field office, or information line that offers information for trail visitors and users. To find specific visitor information for a particular water trail, contact the local management entity. You can search for basic information on a designated national water trail in your area in the National Water Trails System database
. Once you locate the particular water trail in the database or on the map, you should be able to find the appropriate Web links or contact information for the local management entity in this database.
A: National Water Trails System designation includes:
- designation by the Secretary of the Interior
- national promotion and visibility
- positive economic impact from increased tourism
- mutual support and knowledge-sharing
- assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects
- opportunities to obtain technical assistance and funding
- increased opportunities for outdoor recreation and water resource protection
- contribution to public health and quality of life
A: No, except in the cases where the water trail is located on NPS or DOI lands. The National Trails System and the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program (RTCA) of the National Park Service administer the overall National Water Trails System and oversee the application review process. However, each designated national water trail is managed by the local management entity (e.g., local, state, or federal government agency, nonprofit organization, interagency organization, etc.) and management responsibility remains
with that entity.
A: Several types of water trails exist in the United States. National water trails are water trails that meet the required designation criteria and best management practices (as confirmed by an application review process) and have been officially designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture (when on or in cooperation with the National Forest Service lands). Not all water trails meet these criteria or have been designated as national water trails. However, local and state water trails may be included in the National Water Trails System. You can learn more about the National Water Trails System
or access the National Water Trail System database and map for information on specific designated national water trails
. Many states have statewide water trail systems
that provide information about and recognize water trails locally.
A: Yes, waterways with other designations can be designated as national water trails.
A: The National Water Trails System is a recently developed subset of the long-established National Recreation Trail (NRT) system
. The National Trails System Act of 1968 (16 USC 1241-51) authorized creation of a national trail system composed of national recreation trails, national scenic trails, and national historic trails. Since 1971, over 1,100 national recreation trails
have been designated on both public and private lands and waters throughout the United States.
The National Trails System Act gives the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to develop “supplementary criteria” for national recreation trails. The National Water Trails System is now considered a subset under the umbrella of national trails defined by the National Trails System Act. With the recent development of the National Water Trails System, an enhanced focus on providing and promoting water-based trail opportunities throughout the United States will complement the existing network of national recreation trails. Click here
to read in-depth about designation authority, management, and coordination.
A: The National Water Trails System is a new interagency endeavor that came into existence in early 2012, based on the priority actions of America’s Great Outdoors report. National water trails must meet both the designation criteria of national recreation trails and the seven NWTS best management practices.
A: An application account allows a water trail manager or primary contact person to apply for designation. It is the beginning of the application process for National Water Trails System designation. Within this account a water trail application can be filled out, supporting materials uploaded, and final information submitted for review. Supporting materials, such as maps, brochures, photos, and letter of support must be in electronic format and are uploaded as part of the online submission process.
A: Any group, agency, or nonprofit that manages a water trail and wants that water trail to be considered for designation within the National Water Trails System.
A: For each water trail, one account should be created by the primary contact person for the water trail.
A: When the water trail manager or primary contact person changes for a water trail, that person can transfer responsibility of the application account to a new primary contact.