About Us > A National Water Trail

On June 3, 2016, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis announced addition of the Kankakee River Water Trail to the National Water Trails System. This was the culmination of a two-year effort by the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association (NWIPA), a non-profit organization, and its partners in both Indiana and Illinois.

The National Water Trails System is a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails that are cooperatively supported and sustained. Individual trails are designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior -- view a map showing the system.

According to the National Park Service, 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.

In addition to the national recreation trails criteria, the National Park Service requires designated water trails to  incorporate the following best management practices:

  • 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 local waterways and surrounding lands.
  • Community Support: Local communities provide support and advocacy for 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: 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.
  • Planning: Maintain a water trail plan that describes a vision, desired future conditions, and strategies to strengthen best management practices.

If you would like to help maintain the National Water Trail on the Kankakee River, please connect with us through our Contact page.

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