Illinois – according to Wikipedia has 98 rivers. Our state is bordered by 880 miles of rivers and contains a total of 87,110 miles of rivers and streams. IDNR’s list of Public Waters names 48 rivers and lakes, several multiple times. Eliminating the multiple listings for different navigable sections of the same rivers and lakes, there are only 34 rivers officially navigable, which of course, includes such rivers as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois, not always on our most favorite list of rivers to paddle, with, of course, some exceptions.
This special issue of the ILLINOIS PADDLER is dedicated to the group of paddlers, private and public entities, that are working together to establish water trails, the definition of which is
Water trails are marked routes on navigable waterway such as rivers, lakes, canals and coastlines for recreational use. They allow access to waterways for non-motorized boats and sometimes motorized vessels, inner tubes, and other craft.
But this simple definition holds a vast treasure of benefits when National Park Service created the National Water Trails System in 1968:
Recreation Opportunities: 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.
Education: The water trail users are provided with opportunities to learn about the value of water resources, cultural heritage, boating skills, and outdoor ethics.
Conservation: The water trail provides opportunities for communities to develop and implement strategies that enhance and restore the health of the local waterways and surrounding lands.
Community Support: Local communities provide support and advocacy for the maintenance and stewardship of the water trail.
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.
Trail Maintenance: Demonstrate ability to support routine and long-term maintenance investments on the water trail. Facilities are designed, constructed, and maintained incorporating sustainability principles.
Planning: Maintain a water trail plan that describes a vision, desired future conditions, and strategies to strengthen best management practices.
So congratulations to those groups whose efforts have created or are working hard to establish a now national or state recognized water trail.