Pennsylvania Water Trails

Connecting our currents

Resources for Managers

Information, tools, and guidance for water trail managers

Strategic Plan and Program Policies

Strategic Plan

The 2017-2022 Pennsylvania Water Trails Program Strategic Plan, adopted in 2017, outlines water trail oversight, support, promotion and celebration, and plan implementation.

PA Water Trail Program Policies


Summary of Grant Opportunities for Boating Access Projects in PA:

Urgent Issue on a PA Water Trail Mini Grant

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), in partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Fish and Boat Commission, is pleased to offer a new mini-grant for an “urgent issue on a designated PA Water Trail.” Grants are available for a project that can quickly and efficiently address an ‘urgent’ issue on a designated PA Water Trail that is causing, or could reasonably be expected to cause, an unsafe or dangerous situation for those wishing to access the river for recreation or enjoyment. Applicants can request up to $2,000 and project proposals must include a 1:1 match (cash or in-kind). Eligible applicants include registered non-profit organizations and public entities (such as a county, municipality, or municipal agency) and all projects must occur on or for a designated Pennsylvania Water Trail.

PA Water Trails Mini-grant

The Pennsylvania Water Trails Mini-grant program is funded by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. All types of projects that increase access to Pennsylvania’s water trails, support the PA Water Trail Program’s eight program principals, and have a one-year time frame will be considered.

Any project on or for a designated Pennsylvania Water Trail is eligible to receive funds from this mini-grant program; applicants do not have to be the water trail’s manager.

This year the grant period will open in September and will close on Nov. 3, with awardees selected by December. This will enable grantees a full construction and paddling season to implement projects in 2024. Mini-grants are capped at $5,000 and require a 1:1 match.

Boating Facility Grant Program

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) created the Boating Facility Grant Program to provide grants for the planning, acquisition, development, expansion and rehabilitation of public boating facilities located on the waters of the Commonwealth. The goal of the program is to ensure Pennsylvania’s recreational boaters have the highest quality boating facilities.

Projects require a 1:1 match. The applications are typically due in December, and awards are announced in April. Eligible applicants are municipalities and non-profits.

Western PA Conservancy Canoe Access Development Fund

CADF projects focus on rivers and streams where people can canoe or kayak, with an emphasis on easier whitewater suitable for novice paddlers. The best reference for identifying these types of waterways remains the “Canoeing Guide to Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia,” Applicants include nonprofit watershed and conservation organizations, community groups, municipalities and more.

Grant awards range in amounts up to $4,000 per site and can be used in a variety of ways, including improving an existing access, developing a new river access or adding nearby parking areas.

Statewide Waterways Access Grant Program

Grants are available for design & engineering, construction/upgrade & rehabilitation of non-motorized public access projects across the Commonwealth. Priority will be given to projects that improve recreational access on rivers & streams as well as those that support & advance POWR’s mission, specifically the facilitation, stewardship, & enjoyment of PA’s waterways. Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations with tax-exempt status 501c3, municipalities, counties, & educational institutions. Applicants can request up to $30k, and project proposals must include a 1:1 match. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

National Water Trail System

The National Water Trails System is a network of water trails open to the public to explore and enjoy. The system also serves as a community of water resource managers who are building a community that promotes the development of water trails and shares best management practices related to community engagement, conservation, outreach, maintenance, and trail planning with other water trails.

River Management Society

The River Management Society (RMS) is the nation’s premier network connecting those who work on and for rivers with their river professional peers, including outfitters and guides, rangers, planners and landscape architects, fluvial geomorphologists, environmental lawyers and policymakers, students, professors, researchers and authors. While it is a member based organization, the website has hundreds of free resources including those for access planning, design, and management; community engagement; creating equitable workspaces; embracing and advancing inclusive and equitable water trails, and so much more.

To browse their amazing and comprehensive list of recorded training videos on a wide variety of topics, click HERE

Programming and Community Engagement/Stewardship

POWR's Calendar of Events

The Water Trails Program will continue its close partnership with the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR) by allowing and encouraging Water Trail Managers to post sojourns, education and outreach events, community engagement events, and volunteer and stewardship opportunities on the Calendar of Events on POWR’s website. Managers can use the Submit an Event link to post events that will then be reviewed and approved by PEC staff.

The West Branch Paddle Club

The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s West Branch Paddle Club is a program that provides resources and celebrates paddlers of all ages and ability levels for their exploration of the Susquehanna River Water Trail – West Branch. 

There are two ways to join the club:

  1. Join as a segment paddler or
  2. Join as a water trail supporter

All members receive an annual WBPC newsletter, official WBPC sticker, discounts on SGP events, and the knowledge that they have supported the West Branch Susquehanna Water Trail so that more people can enjoy the beauty and adventure to be found along the West Branch! 

Safety & Hazards

Fish and Boat Safety Videos

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission created a series of informational safety videos to help river users prepare for hazards on the water. Share these videos freely on your social media, in your communications, or with your partners to spread information about river safety. 

Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner Program

Since 2008, the Sea Tow Foundation has distributed over 50,000 life jackets to local businesses and organizations across the country. Your organization can apply to host and maintain a Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner Station stocked with life jackets in a variety of sizes available for boaters to borrow free of charge for a day out on the water.

Safe Boating Talking Points 2023

While this resource was created by PFBC for Safe Boating Week 2023, many of the talking points in this resource can be used by water trail managers for media interviews, e-newsletters, social media, etc. any time of year.

Removal of Oakland Dam Begins, with Benefits for Public Safety, Health of Susquehanna River

In a major step forward for public safety and river health, demolition of Oakland Dam on the Susquehanna River begins July 25. The project is the largest dam removal to date in Pennsylvania. 

Oakland Dam, a dangerous and obsolete former hydropower dam, is 755  ft long and 16 ft high. Removal will eliminate a severe safety hazard at #350 on the North Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail, eliminating the need for water trail users to portage around this barrier. The project will also reconnect 250 miles of aquatic habitat for sportfish, iconic freshwater mussels, and other critical fish and wildlife. 

Design and Maintenance Guides

Trail Management Plan Template

PEC has created a Trail Management Plan Template for use by water trail managers as they embark on efforts to address long-term management of existing water trails.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Draft Visitor Use Management Plan

The purpose of the VUM Plan is to maximize the ability of the National Park Service to encourage access and improve visitor experiences while protecting natural and cultural resources for future generations. This plan examines current and potential visitor opportunities and develops long-term strategies to provide access, to connect visitors to important experiences, and to manage visitor use. 


Economic Benefits of Water Trails Report 

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council completed this assessment in 2013 to highlight the economic benefit water trails have on their communities.