Make the Trail Enjoyable

Camping along the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail
Camping along the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail

Provide a mix of wilderness and comfort where appropriate. Many paddlers on an extended trip will enjoy the opportunity to stay overnight at waterside or nearby lodging, take a hot shower, and eat something other than freeze-dried food. You will also be providing an economic opportunity for communities along the route. Link to local TDC or Chamber of Commerce sites instead of mentioning businesses individually to keep amenity listings up-to-date.

Include sources of potable water in your guide; this is especially critical in a saltwater environment. Let paddlers know how much they need to acquire at a source before their next opportunity to re-supply. One way of doing this has been to identify potable water sources in paddling guides with a "water drop" icon and inform paddlers of the quantity of water needed based on one gallon per person, per day minimum. If freshwater sources are available and can be filtered, inform paddlers accordingly.

Identify safe swimming opportunities, such as a public beaches or springs along the route. Paddlers appreciate an opportunity to swim in fresh water, especially on saltwater trips.

Include accessible "Points of Interest" such as hiking trailheads and other public recreation opportunities. Paddlers welcome the opportunity to access hiking trails from the water to "stretch their legs". Work with land managers to identify existing trails or develop new trail options for your map publications.

Paddlers prefer loop trails to out-and-back routes. Offer trails of different lengths and to a variety of destinations.

The majority of users will appreciate a short trail of 3 to 5 miles or less; provide a variety of options for diverse users. The average paddler will travel about 2 miles an hour. This speed varies widely between paddlers and does not take in to account any currents or tidal effects. The closer your trail is located to an urban area, the more likely it is that there will be many beginning paddlers; plan accordingly by providing campsites and access points a maximum of 5 to 6 miles apart to allow for slow or inexperienced users.

On coastal trails place campsites a maximum of 10 miles apart to allow time for paddlers to handle challenging weather and tide conditions. This is not a long distance for an experienced paddler, but it allows a safety margin when adverse tides, winds, and currents present a challenge. A coastal trail should be marketed to experienced, well-prepared sea kayakers with primitive camping experience. Emphasize the importance of paddlers being well equipped and experienced with primitive wilderness camping and low impact techniques.



FWC Facts:
Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for personal watercraft use.

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