American Whitewater Releases New River Access Planning Guide

Published 1/26/2021  |  American Whitewater

By: Evan Stafford

In a joint project with the River Management Society, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS), American Whitewater has published the River Access Planning Guide. American Whitewater is regularly called upon to assist with river access projects. Some are a spectacular success, while others are a disappointment. Over the past three years, American Whitewater has been working with NPS Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Programs to better understand how success comes about when a river access project is developed and provide guidance for a step-by-step process that leads to projects that meet user needs and are sustainable both ecologically and financially.

The River Access Planning Guide is a resource for planners, river managers, and users as they design new river access sites, improve existing access, or integrate river access into larger infrastructure projects. The information provided in the guide is intended to provide advice and direction for those involved in river access development and can help facilitate related conversations among agency staff, nonprofits, decision makers, contractors, volunteers, and the public at large. These guidelines have now been published as both a printed book and an online document that can be referenced during all phases of river access planning, design, and management. Over the past few years the National Park Service and partners have supported a number of projects that address design and planning for waterway access. The River Access Planning Guide is a new component in this suite of resources.

Access points along rivers are the gateways to experiencing them. The River Access Planning Guide outlines a process to provide for a variety of high quality recreational experiences while also protecting resource. It represents an approach to site selection and design to best meet the needs of those visitors seeking to enjoy recreation on and in the water. The Special Report on Paddlesports found that paddlesports continue to grow, with over 21.7 million Americans (about 7.4 percent of the population) participating in 2014. This represents an increase of more than 3 million participants compared to 2010. Increasing access to river recreation opportunities on public lands is a top priority for the American Whitewater and the River Access Planning Guide aligns closely with the NPS and the US Department of the Interior’s goal to enhance access to recreation by supporting infrastructure that creates recreation opportunities on public lands and waterways, making this a great and fitting collaboration.

Having published the River Access Planning Guide, American Whitewater is now working with the National Park Service and River Management Society to provide training opportunities. We recently completed our first successful training on the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and look forward to a number of other trainings in 2020.

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