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 families recreational opportunities and history lessons in scenic regions of the U.S. Here are five trails to consider:
1.The Missouri National Recreational River Water Trail, Iowa and South Dakota:
How might this river have appeared to Lewis and Clark when they navigated their way along the Missouri more than 200 years ago?
Discover for yourself as you explore some of the last remaining natural stretches of America's longest river, on the lookout for wildlife, scenic vistas and contemplating the significant history of the area. You'll learn about the plants, animals and landscapes described in the Lewis and Clark journals and find out how the river has changed course over the years.
The trail extends from Fort Randall Dam near Pickstown, S.D., to Sioux City, Iowa, mostly within the boundaries of the Missouri National Recreational River, or MNRR, a National Park unit consisting of relatively free-flowing segments of the storied river.
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 whitewater and kayak parks, world-class fishing and more than 100 natural and urban parks in the region. Maps are available to help families locate the 117 public access points, bike trail information and to plan a custom adventure.
3. Willamette Water Trail, Ore.:
Plan a day trip or a multi-day outing on this mostly flatwater, 216-mile trail that 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 access a waterproof and bound printed map or the web site to find campsites, picnic areas, parks and historical points of interest and to track river features. Follow links on the website to learn about festivals and other happenings related to the trail. Guide and shuttle services are available.
4. Bayou Teche Paddle Trail, La.:
Be on the lookout for wood ducks, herons, kingfishers and warblers as you paddle your chosen 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 to paddle a seven-mile route or longer stretches. Consult the web site to learn about fishing opportunities, locks, portages and to help determine the appropriate route for your group.
5. The Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, N.Y.:
Make use of the web site'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. Look forward to exploring wildlife marshes, islands, and historic sites as well as nearby hiking trails. Local outfitters, guides and equipment rentals are available to enhance your trip.