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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Shetucket River Water Trail


Map of CT

The Shetucket River flows through The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor in Windham and New London Counties. The water trail offers 20 miles of paddling within an hour’s drive of three of New England’s largest urban and metropolitan regions. The major tributaries of the Shetucket River, the Quinebaug River to the east and Willimantic River to the west, have previously been designated National Recreation Trails.


photo of trail near creek

The Trail travels along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains and offers views of the

Pacific Ocean and chaparral‐blanketed mountainsides.

The Shetucket River Water Trail offers approximately 20 miles of paddling within an hour's drive of three of New England's largest urban and metropolitan regions. Many of the segments provide an opportunity for family-friendly, close-to-home outdoor adventures. Wildlife is abundant and in addition to exceptional scenic habitat the river also flows through historic mill communities.

The Shetucket River Water Trail flows through The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Despite its location within the coastal sprawl between Washington, D.C. and Boston, the region is a relatively undeveloped rural enclave with 77% of the land remaining forest and farmland. The Last Green Valley appears distinctly dark at night when viewed from satellites or aircraft and during the daytime appears as an emerald green island along the east coast of the United States.

The Shetucket River begins in Windham at the confluence of the Willimantic and Natchaug rivers and is one of the largest rivers within the Thames River Watershed. The Quinebaug River joins the Shetucket in Lisbon and from there the Shetucket flows into Norwich joining the Yantic in Norwich Harbor to form the Thames River. Along its route the Shetucket River carries water from the other main stem rivers including the Willimantic, Natchaug, Quinebaug, French, Five Mile, Moosup and Pachaug Rivers.

The Shetucket River was critically important to the Native American people living in the region for fishing and travel. By the 19th and 20th century, large textile mills had been built along the river and major dams were constructed for waterpower. Each of the four dams that remain are utilized for water-powered electrical generation and three of the four dams have fish passage installed with fish ladders or lifts for anadromous fish.

The major tributaries of the Shetucket River, the Quinebaug River to the east and Willimantic River to the west have already received National Recreation Water Trail status. Including the Shetucket in this important national designation would in effect link the three major rivers of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor into a single flowing National Recreational Water Trail system. These three rivers are the most accessible for paddle recreation within the Thames River Watershed.

Map of Portages on the trail. Click map to enlarge.

The Last Green Valley, Inc., partners with several non-profits as well as state and federal agencies, riverside towns, and recreation paddlers to promote the enjoyment and stewardship of the Shetucket River. An active TLGV Water Trails Steering Committee has been in place for several years and has already developed stewardship plans and paddle guides for the Quinebaug and Willimantic rivers.

This committee has overseen the construction of information kiosks, helped make improvements to launch locations, and hosted public events to raise awareness and increase recreational use, and drafted and published paddle guides. We look forward to completing and installing information kiosks on each of the Shetucket landing and launch locations described below in addition to drafting and publishing a Shetucket River Paddle Guide. Both of these important projects will be funded by a State of CT Recreational Trails Grant and are anticipated to be completed by the spring of 2016.

Six paddle segments provide 20 miles of paddling from Windham to Norwich. There are 4 dams within these six paddle segments and each has an established canoe and kayak portage making paddle travel relatively easy between each segment.

The paddle segments include:


For more information:

See the NRT Database for more trail information

See The Last Green Valley website for padding information.



trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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