By Laura Barbour | Photos IOSRWT
Water trails—it’s a fluid concept (pun intended). Like other types of trails (pedestrian, equestrian, ATV), water trails are simply corridors connecting recreational destinations. They take you from one point on the map to the next, but by water instead of on land. Also, like other types of trails, water trails embody a variety of values and provide a variety of services—recreation, conservation, education, interpretation and economic development. The Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail (IOSRWT), for instance, exists to steward the natural and cultural resources of the Snake River, and to promote them as opportunities for recreationists to engage in place-based exploration and adventure tourism. Along the Snake River corridor, the IOSRWT connects opportunities for learning (historical sites, museums and interpretive centers) with places to enjoy a meal; community centers with wildlife refuges; scenic canyons with riverfront city parks. The IOSRWT also embraces both motorized and non-motorized boating. Parks, historical sites, trails, towns, counties, recreational retailers, museums, tourism-based organizations, educational agencies, community members and recreationists from Glenn's Ferry to Farewell Bend are all integral parts of our Water Trail.
Whitewater on the Snake River
Like the rivers, lakes and lagoons they navigate, water trails form a network of “blueways” across the United States. The National Park Service’s National Water Trails system showcases “exemplary water trails that are cooperatively supported and sustained." Notable water trails include Michigan’s Huron River Water Trail, Georgia’s Okefenokee Wilderness Canoe Trail, and (more locally) Oregon’s Willamette River Water Trail and Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail. Because water trails tend to span large corridors and link a mosaic of land uses, property ownerships, political jurisdictions, and habitat types, they must be supported by broad community partnerships. The Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail is guided by a coalition of partners representing federal and state agencies, city and county governments, nonprofit and community organizations, economic development and tourism groups, private businesses and citizens with an interest in Snake River recreation.
Rafting the Snake near Swan Falls
Like other trails, water trails are essentially just routes to get you from one place to another. And like all other trails, they are also much more than that. Lacing up your hiking boots, buckling on your mountain bike helmet, firing your speedboat, grabbing your paddle and nosing your canoe into the current—it’s not just about points A and B. It’s about launching yourself on a journey of discovery, whether you’re exploring a new place or retracing a well-known route. It’s about engaging with a place, immersing yourself in an experience; seeking out an adventure—and enjoying yourself every single step (or paddle stroke) of the way.
Learn more about the Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail on the website: www.snakeriverwatertrail.org.
Interpretive hike near the Snake River