Contact us…

1300 Bluff Street
Suite 114
Flint, MI 48504
Ph: 810.767.6490

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The FRWC is a non-political, non-partisan nonprofit organization; as such, we do not endorse candidates for political office.

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Click the image above to hear our Flint River Watershed radio PSA!

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Planning for a Water Trail


                                                                        Photo Credit: Genesee County Parks & Recreation


For project specific information and benefits of a National Water Trail designation

visit the Flint River Water Trail  main page.


10 steps for planning a WT

View the National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program:

Water Trails Planning 101 Handout

National Water Trail Criteria:

As a subset of the national recreation trail designation, trails in the National Water Trails System must meet the four criteria for National Recreation Trail designation as follows:

  1. The trail (and its access points) must be open to public use and be designed, constructed, and maintained according to best management practices, in keeping with the anticipated use. Water trail access points that demonstrate state-of-the-art design and management are especially encouraged to apply for national water trail designation.
  2. The trail is in compliance with applicable land use plans and environmental laws.
  3. The trail will be open for public use for at least 10 consecutive years after designation.
  4. The trail designation must be supported by the landowner(s), (public or private), on which access points exist.

Best Management Practices developed by the National Water Trail System:

  • Recreation – The water trail route has established public access points that accommodate a diversity of trip lengths and provide access to a variety of opportunities for recreation and education. 
  • Community Support – Local communities provide support and advocacy for maintenance and stewardship of the water trail.
  • Education – The water trail users are provided with opportunities to learn about the value of water resources, cultural heritage, boating skills, and outdoor ethics.
  • Trail Maintenance – There is a demonstrated ability to support routine and long-term maintenance investments on the water trail. Facilities are designed, constructed, and maintained by incorporating sustainability principles.  
  • Public Information – The public is provided with accessible and understandable water trail information, including details for identifying access and trail routes; cultural, historic, and natural features; hazards; and water quality. The water trail is promoted to the community and broad national audience.
  • Planning – Maintain a water trail plan that describes a vision, desired future conditions, and strategies to strengthen best management practices.
  • Conservation The water trail provides opportunities for communities to develop and implement strategies that enhance and restore the health of local waterways and surrounding lands.


American Canoe Association: Registry of water trails in all 50 states; National Paddlesports Instruction Programs.
American Trails: Resources and library for water and boating trails; National Recreation Trails database with water trail profiles.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: Widely adopted Leave No Trace Principles (also see the river corridors version)
National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance: Success stories and trail resources; Planning Assistance.

How can a Water Trail meet the obligation to provide “meaningful access” to persons with disabilities? View the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail, Water Trail Accessibility Plan.

Prepare to Launch! Guidelines for Assessing, Designing, & Building Access Sites for Carry-In Watercraft: Prepare to Launch! is a joint project of the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program and the River Management Society, and is an update to Logical Lasting Launches











Economic Impacts of Water Trails Generic Paddling Sign Flint River

An Economic Argument for Watertrails – River Management Society – 2015

Huron River Water Trail, Economic Impact Analysis – Washtenaw County – 2013

North Carolina’s 2008 Paddle Tourism Study

Oregon Park and Recreation’s 2005-2014 State Trails Plan

2012 Pennsylvania Recreational Water Trails Economic Impact Study




Water trail partnerships and collaborative efforts

Willamette River Water Trail,

Huron River Water Trail,,

Cass River Greenway,

Tillamook County Water Trail’s guidebooks,

Blueways of St. Clair, Island Loop Route

M-15 to Irish_JUNE2016


Michigan Water Trails Information

Michigan Water Trails Website – Explore the variety of trails our state has to offer. Don’t forget to visit their section on the Flint River Water Trail!



The information on this page was developed by the National Parks Service – Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program or the National Water Trail System. Click HERE to view their site.