Our Country's Newest "Blue Trail" — The Congaree River In South Carolina
As President of American Rivers, the nation’s leading river conservation organization, I get to enjoy our nation’s rivers more than most people. After all, it’s my job! But, I don’t come to work everyday just because I love rivers and want to protect them so our communities can continue to thrive. I come to work everyday because I want everyone to love and appreciate rivers. I want all Americans to have a stake in the future of our rivers and the best way to do that is to connect people with their local rivers and streams. To engage individuals with rivers and allow people to truly see what they have to offer. To many people, a river is just something to look at as they cross a bridge – if they even notice it at all. In order to change this, we need to give people the opportunity to personally experience a river - to witness its beauty, behold its grace and respect its power.Most people believe they have to go long and far out of their way to enjoy a river, but many of these jewels are right in their own backyards. So, at American Rivers, we make it a priority to not only connect people with their local rivers, but to cultivate the recreational and cultural opportunities rivers provide. That’s why American Rivers is working to establish blue trails through our Blue Trails Initiative TM — a great way to connect people to their hometown rivers while boosting tourism, civic pride and a conservation ethic.
Blue trails, also known as water trails, are the river equivalent of hiking trails. They are corridors developed to facilitate recreation in and along rivers and other water bodies. Blue trails are found in urban settings as well as in remote environments. They come in all shapes and sizes and are used by paddlers, anglers, hikers, runners, picnickers, and those just seeking a bit of solitude.
One of our country’s newest blue trails is South Carolina’s Congaree River Blue Trail.
This past Friday, American Rivers and its local partners hosted a celebration of the Congaree River Blue Trail and its recent designation as a National Recreation Trail. The celebration included a ceremonial paddle from West Columbia across the river to Columbia, South Carolina. West Columbia Mayor Horton and City Council Member Elect Belinda Gergel and Tracy Swartout, Congaree National Park Superintendent joined us and spoke about the importance of the Congaree River to South Carolina and the region. American Rivers also released a new waterproof map and interpretative guide of the Congaree River Blue Trail.
The Congaree River Blue Trail is a real asset for local communities, and the trail map and online interpretive guide will make it even easier for people to get out and enjoy the river with their family and friends. As demonstrated by the many partners and civic leaders attending the paddle and celebration, The Congaree River brings all the surrounding communities together and fosters a sense of civic pride.
American Rivers is working hard to enhance communities’ access to and opportunity for recreation and the enjoyment of these valuable assets. We are rekindling the public’s appreciation for America’s rich river heritage. As more people learn to appreciate the gift of rivers, they will want to protect them. That’s what blue trails are all about.