Q: What is a water trail?
A: Around the world there are many types of water trails. For WWTA a water trail is a route along a river or across other bodies of water such as a lake or salt water for people using small beach-able boats like kayaks, canoes, day sailors, or rowboats. Water trails are most often identified by the land facilities that support water travel. These include launch and landing sites, campsites, rest areas, and other points of interest. On land, trails have distinct treads or walkways; on water it’s the entire water surface, a surface that is constantly changing with flow, tide, current, boat wakes, and wind.
Q: Where are these water trails located?
A: See our maps.
Q: What is the Cascadia Marine Trail (CMT)?
A: The Cascadia Marine Trail is a salt water trail that stretches over 140 miles, from the Canadian border on the north to southernmost Puget Sound near Olympia. More info is available in our Trails Section.
Q: Does WWTA lead trips?
A: We do sometimes sponsor trips. WWTA is an advocacy non-profit using small boats for education and surveys, getting to remote sites for work parties, and the occasional member event. Check the calendar for events. If you are looking for guided trip or classes, we suggest contacting your local recreation department or the great businesses and organizations that support us.
WWTA trip participant expectations
We welcome paddlers of all skill levels on our day trips to marine access and campsite locations around
Washington State. Your interest and participation is key to our work to build awareness and promote
access to public waterways for all to enjoy.
To keep you safe, we expect a few simple things from you:
1. Always wear your coast guard approved lifejacket when on the water.
2. SUP paddlers must wear a leash.
3. Sit-inside decked kayaks must have a spray skirt.
4. Wear only non-cotton clothing (wetsuit or drysuit recommended).
5. Use a boat with inherent flotation (bulkheads, float bags, or a sit-on-top). If you fall out, you
should be able to get back in while on the water. Practice this before the trip.
6. Bring snacks and drinking water.
7. Wear sunblock and sun-protective clothing, including a hat.
8. Tell a neighbor or friend where you’re going, and when to expect you back.
9. Bring an extra layer or two of clothing, preferably non-cotton and in a dry bag.
10. Please stay with the group while on the water.
Here are some additional recommendations for your added safety and enjoyment:
1. A spare paddle.
2. Put your cell phone in a waterproof case or dry bag.
3. Check the weather forecast, the tide tables, and the current predictions for the location of the
4. A waterproof VHF radio.
5. A boat repair kit.
6. A first aid kit.
7. Study charts of the area before going on the water, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
8. A pocket compass and charts, to supplement any nav apps you have on your phone.
Q: Where can I go?
A: Washington state has a wide variety of water opportunities for rafting, sailing, flat water canoeing, whitewater adventure, and both protected and ocean saltwater boating. Water trails are used mostly by sea kayakers. For a list go to Trails. The Cascadia Marine has mellower excursions in the South Sound region and increasingly challenging conditions around the San Juan Islands and Straits.
Q: Do I have to be a WWTA member to use water trail sites?
A: Water trail camping sites and trailheads are available for the public. Your WWTA membership supports our efforts to increase shoreline access and develop new campsites and facilities in Washington state.
Q: Can you help me plan a trip?
A: We have extensive trip suggestions available under planning resources and you can find maps under our trails section, depending on which water trail you plan to visit.
Q: Can I buy an annual pass?
A: In 2003 Washington State Parks ended its annual marine trail permit program that was good only at its own Cascadia Marine Trail campsites. Fees and reservations vary; some campsites are free while others may require reservations additional payment. Be prepared to pay the fee with exact dollars, as many sites are self-service. For most State Parks sites, the fees are $12 per night for up to six adults. The following State Parks sites cost $14 per night: Belfair, Deception Pass, Fay Bainbridge, Fort Ebey, Fort Flagler, Fort Worden, Kopachuck, Manchester, Penrose Point, Spencer Spit, and Twanoh.
Q: Is it just for kayakers?
A: While Washington Water Trails Association works for public water and shoreline access for those using small non-motorized boats, the Association works for the public; all people who enjoy fishing, wildlife viewing, or just sitting at the water’s edge. The majority of WWTA members use kayaks as these boats were designed for the cold water conditions found on the saltwater and many mountain-fed rivers and streams in Washington state.
Q: Where do you camp?
A: Camp at designated water trail campsites or at public parks and private campgrounds adjacent to the water. For a break from camping, contact bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or hotels along the route. Do not camp on private property or restricted areas unless you have first received permission from the landowner.
Q: How many people can fit into a campsite?
A: Campsites come in many sizes. Limit your group size and learn about camp capacities before you go. The first principle of Leave No Trace is Plan Ahead and Prepare.
Q: Can I reserve a site?
A: The majority of Cascadia Marine Trail campsites welcome all those who are traveling by human or wind-powered beachable craft. If you are the first to arrive at a site, leave room for others who may arrive late. All users should be considerate and work out tent placement amicably. Some campsites are by reservation only. WWTA works with many land managers, and some require reservations. These include Anderson Island (only available to WWTA members) and Laughlin Cove. Reserve by contacting us.
Q: How much does it cost to camp?
A: Fees and reservations vary; some campsites are free while others may require reservations and payment. Be prepared to pay the fee with exact dollars, as many sites are self-service. For State Parks sites, the fees start at $12 per night for up to six adults.
Q: Who do I contact if the site is missing a sign or there is something wrong with the site?
A: If you see a ranger or maintenance worker, let them know what you noticed. Follow up with a note, email or letter later. If there is no one at the site, jot down details; location, date and time of your visit and sent to WWTA when you return. If you have a camera take a picture!
Q: Are there other water trails in North America?
A: Washington state is one of many states with water trails. There are water trails of various lengths from Alaska to California and in many states as well as mainland and maritime Canada. The Great Lakes and Key West have trails but none that has the Cascade volcanoes, fish and ferries, and array of year-round water activities of the Pacific Northwest!
Q: What if I own land on the shoreline that I want to turn into a water trail?
A: Contact WWTA or a local land conservancy. There are a number of resources available to help you.
Q: Who maintains the sites?
A: Many people care for the sites. WWTA Site Stewards and volunteers do periodic maintenance. Park staff lovingly care for the parks where they live and work. Local clubs may adopt a site. If you want to help, check out our get involved page.
Q: What do I get as a member?
A: Membership benefits include access to current trail information, our quarterly newsletter, and discounts at local businesses. More information is available on our join pages.
Q: How do I contact my legislator to support water trails?
A: Be prepared. Know the issues and what your legislator’s interests are. There is good information on how to communicate with your state legislator available online. Find out who represents you. Contact local elected officials and government staff and help obtain funding by writing your US representatives and senators.