A San Joaquin River Water Trail

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We envision a water trail as a component and early phase of the San Joaquin River Blueway. The concept of water trails, routes for going from one place to another by water, is not new. Historically, water trails were a mainstay of transportation and commerce — from Native American canoe routes, to steamboat lines, to lock-engineered canals, to the modern shipping corridors that carry vast quantities of cargo worldwide.

Today, communities across the country are developing recreational water trails to enhance their water-related recreational experiences. Canoes, kayaks, skiffs, or other small watercraft can travel these water trails to and from a series of designated launch and land sites — docks, piers, rafts, ramps or beaches — which are often enhanced by picnic areas, nature trails, restrooms, and other amenities and support facilities. Water trails are taking shape on urban and rural rivers both small and mighty, and in lakes, bays, and coastal waters across the nation.

In the short term, the San Joaquin River Water Trail would link sites that already provide public access, such as those located near Fresno along the San Joaquin River Parkway. Potential for enhanced recreational access in the National Wildlife Refuge boundaries provides the possibility for establishing a second, downstream water trail segment in the near future. Over time, the water trail could be extended down-river toward the Delta, and up the lower reaches of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers to enhance access from the Modesto and Stockton areas. Eventually, in the longer term, the water trail could travel through the restoration program reaches between the San Joaquin River Parkway and the National Wildlife Refuges, and become a backbone of the San Joaquin River Blueway.