Georgia’s Little River Water Trail is a wildlife sanctuary for bald eagle nests, river otters, turtles and other animals, and its history includes gold mines as well as Quaker and Native American Indian settlements. (Mark Rodgers photo)
Georgia’s Little River Water Trail will make a big splash in the area recreational, environmental and tourism community. The development of Georgia’s Little River into a water trail has been underway for several months, and the effort continues to build momentum.
Similar to a hiking trail, a water trail has safe public access points, information kiosks and signage, and family friendly amenities such as picnic areas and facilities along the route.
The trail flows 20 miles through Wilkes, Warren and McDuffie counties within the 15,000-acre Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area, and it includes four public access locations – Highway 80, Highway 78, Holliday Park and Raysvillle Campground. The water trail is a wildlife sanctuary for bald eagle nests, river otters, turtles and other animals, and its history includes gold mines as well as Quaker and Native American Indian settlements.
The Little River Water Trail is being developed by various community stakeholders including McDuffie, Wilkes and Warren counties; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Department of Natural Resources; landowners; local business owners; Boy Scout troop leaders and local paddlers. Gwyneth Moody, the Georgia River Network director of programs and outreach, is helping as well.
“Georgia River Network’s water trails technical assistance program helps communities form comprehensive water trail stakeholder partnerships as well as providing them with guidance and resources to begin developing a sustainable water trail,” Moody says. “It’s a win-win for everyone – and most importantly our rivers as water trails are also an effective way to introduce people to river issues and to engage them in the protection of their local waterways.”
Developments include the passage of the Georgia’s Little River Water Trail Resolutions of Support by McDuffie and Wilkes counties, social media updates and the design of marketing materials. Trail head kiosks have been put up at some access points, and kayak rentals are available at Raysville Campground. Georgia River Network also held a two-day paddle and campout on Little River in May.
“Ultimately, Georgia River Network hopes to see Georgia’s Little River Water Trail join the statewide Georgia Water Trails Network consisting of the 15 water trails that have successfully fulfilled the six criteria required to become an officially established water trail.
Under the criteria, the water trail must:
- Be sponsored, maintained and promoted by a local entity or partnership;
- Have publicly accessible areas that paddlers can legally access and safely unload boats and park vehicles;
- Have river access sites that are appropriately spaced apart on the river so that they may be reasonable paddled in a few hours or a full day;
- Have water access to public overnight camping sites, depending on the length of the trail;
- Provide information about the water trail to paddlers through a website and illustrative maps created by the sponsoring entity;
- Place signage or kiosks that include river etiquette information, paddling safety information and a map of the water trail at all access points.
The water trail will be divided into three sections – Highway 80/Wrightsboro Road Bridge in McDuffie County to Highway 78 (7.63 miles), Highway 78 to Holliday Park in Wilkes County (7.86 miles) and Holliday Park to Raysville Campground in McDuffie County (4.53 miles).
“This is a great opportunity for McDuffie County to take advantage of our close proximity to Clarks Hill Lake, and it will open up a whole new world of outdoor recreation, family fun and business opportunities for our community,” says Elizabeth Vance, the Thomson-McDuffie County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director and Little River Water Trail coordinator.
A ribbon cutting is slated for later this summer once the six water trail criteria have been met.