Steps to Build a Blue Trail: Safety

Safety for Blue Trails

Congaree River - Jamie MierauWhen planning and managing a Blue Trail, safety is of the utmost importance. Blue Trails can be used as a tool to promote safety by educating the community about safe boating techniques, directing users to the least dangerous locations of the river, and telling paddlers what to expect as they travel the blue trail. Because each waterway contains its own hazards and challenges, developing a blue trail with a focus on safety can lead to a more enjoyable recreational experience for everyone.

Communicate about safety: Developing a blue trail offers the perfect opportunity to create materials that provide necessary safety information to users. Guides, maps, signs, and other safety information should be easily accessible to everyone. Websites providing printable materials make this possible during the planning stage of trips. Access points should provide maps and other safety guides to assist those who are setting out. Signs should be unobstructed and easily viewed from the water. By marking hazards, labeling access points, and detailing a specific route, paddlers unfamiliar with the area will be able to set out on the river better equipped and more prepared. Keep in mind the “self-selection” value of safety messaging to trail users. By describing the conditions and hazards to users before they start down the river, you can give them the tools they need to self-select trails that are suitable to their skill levels. This is an important component of managing risk and keeping people safe.

Manage high risk areas: Each waterway has hazards that pose risks to users. These risks range from rocky areas, strong undertows, and heavy whitewater rapids to dams, pipelines and other infrastructure. Without the full knowledge of these various hazards, paddlers unfamiliar with the area may find themselves in dangerous situations. Blue trails can allow for better management of these high risk areas and provide direction to users to safer parts of the river.  Also, under the management of the blue trail, some unexpected hazards such has downed trees can be cleared much faster.

Minimize User Conflict: The creation of a blue trail can help educate paddlers about their responsibility to share the river with other boaters, thereby reducing the potential for conflicts and increasing the overall enjoyment of recreation paddlers. Through the development of a blue trail, paddlers are also directed to safer areas of the river that may be less traveled by commercial or motorized boats. In addition, users of the blue trail can be made aware of specific segments of the trail that pass through areas of higher commercial boating traffic.