Throughout the nation, rivers and trails weave together some of our most precious and impressive public lands. From the abundant wildlife found on Florida’s Wekiva Wild and Scenic River to worn wagon ruts left behind by pioneers on the Oregon National Historic Trail, rivers and trails that crisscross America connect us to incredible landscapes in our backyards and give us the chance to have fun and learn about ourselves.
On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed both the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act into law. These acts established two systems, one of rivers and one of trails, with outstanding natural and recreational qualities to protect them for future generations. This year, people across the country have come together to celebrate 50 years of our Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Trails Systems. Come explore some of the places where these special trails and rivers cross paths!
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail follows the path of the Corps of Discovery in the early 1800s as a group of 33 explorers charted a route connecting the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, with much of their journey by river. Their voyage traced many amazing rivers, including the Missouri River, the upper portion of which is protected as the Missouri Wild and Scenic River in Montana.
Today, the trail connects 11 states from Missouri to Washington. You can hike through picturesque meadows and gorges, paddle the placid waters of the Missouri River and enjoy a brilliant spectacle of starry nights. In many of the remote areas, the landscape still closely resembles what the Corps of Discovery experienced over 200 years ago.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of both acts, partnering organizations, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management are coming together to organize events and service projects that increase awareness and access to these special resources. Earlier this year, the National Park Foundation funded river and trails projects, including one along the Missouri River to increase public access, while the Bureau of Land Management and local friends groups organized a triathlon.
Imagine gazing back 15,000 years ago when glaciers crept as far south as Wisconsin and large animals like mammoths and saber tooth cats still roamed North America. Visitors along the North Country National Scenic Trail from New York to North Dakota and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin have the opportunity to explore a unique landscape shaped by those ancient glaciers. Both trails overlook the St. Croix Wild and Scenic River. With outstanding geologic history, significant cultural values and quiet waters ideal for a scenic paddle, the St. Croix was one of the original eight rivers designated in 1968.
The St. Croix River and North Country Trail are going all out in celebration of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails System Act. The St. Croix River Association and local partners hosted a series of events to connect the local community to the river, while the North Country Trail was awarded a grant from the National Park Foundation and is working with local volunteers to increase public access to the trail. Local partners also teamed up for National Public Lands Day to provide visitors the chance to paddle 2.5 miles on the St. Croix River followed by a 2.5 mile hike on the North Country Trail.
Spanning approximately 3,100 miles from New Mexico to Montana, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail offers hikers a chance to access remote areas and view diverse wildlife. Breathtaking backdrops of mountain ranges and protruding peaks accompany hikers along their journey, whether for a day or longer. In New Mexico, the Continental Divide Trail crosses a scenic valley where the Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River carved colorful canyons that are rich with Pueblo history.
To celebrate both of these incredible natural resources, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition hosted a New Mexico Rivers and Trails Celebration for a day of family-friendly fun and to learn more about the role of the rivers and trails systems in public lands conservation.
Our celebration of rivers and trails doesn’t end today. Instead, we invite you to #FindYourWay through rivers and trails into the next 50 years!
Learn about rivers and trails and join the celebration by exploring rivers and trails in your backyard.