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Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail

Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail, Houston     Photo: Ben Giannantonio

Open Water
Urban waterways for paddling


Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee—none of these cities are exactly paddling meccas. But in the past decade, paddle routes have become centerpieces of ­urban-restoration projects across the country. Why the surge? Water trails decrease pollution, expand transportation options, and—most important—increase tourism. North Carolina’s water trails bring in $55 million in revenue each year. Here are four urban waterways helping to revitalize their cities.

Milwaukee Urban Paddle Trail, Milwaukee
A 25-mile stretch of the Milwau­kee, Menomonee, and Kinni­ckin­nic rivers passes idled industrial plants, marshes full of egrets, and (key stop) the Rock Bottom Brewery. mkeriverkeeper.org

Detroit Heritage River Water Trail, Detroit
This route will eventually include 120 miles of paddling on the ­Detroit, Huron, Rouge, and Raisin rivers. For now your best bet is Riverside Kayak Connections Canal Tour, a loop beginning at Maheras Gentry Park that highlights the river’s rejuvenation and Detroit’s historic canal neighborhood. riversidekayak.com

Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail, Houston
A local nonprofit cleaned up Houston’s downtown slough, adding parks and green spaces on-shore. Put in at Woodway Memorial Park for a 7.5-mile evening paddle, and stop at the Waugh Bridge to watch 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats go berserk. buffalobayou.org

Congaree River Trail, Columbia, South Carolina
Launch from West Columbia Landing near the Gervais Street Bridge for a four-mile paddle through forested Granby Park. Pack a bag if you intend to pass Cayce Landing—it’s the last take-out for 48 miles, until Congaree National Park, an immense stretch of old-growth hardwood forest. congareeriverbluetrail.blogspot.com

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