National Trails Day was celebrated Saturday with a paddle along the Waccamaw River from downtown Conway starting under the Main Street Bridge to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge's Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area and back.
The paddle celebrated the South Carolina section of the Waccamaw River Blue Trail being named a National Water Trail, by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.
The Waccamaw River Blue Trail project started in 2009 as a partnership with the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, American Rivers and the Pee Dee Land Trust.
“This is a great prestigious award for us, it recognizes the fact that this is a very important recreational river, it's important for it's natural resources, natural heritage as well as it's cultural and historical heritage,” Riverkeeper Christine Ellis said.
Staci Williams, the American Rivers Waccamaw Blue Trail coordinator, said, “It's a huge honor, the first one in South Carolina and one of only a dozen or so in the country.”
Benefits include national promotion and visibility, positive economic impact from increased tourism, increased opportunities for outdoor recreation, increased collaboration for water resource protections and a positive contribution to public health and quality of life.
About 42 paddlers made the trek on Saturday morning, stopping along the way to view blooming swamp roses, brown water snakes and various birds. After a break for snacks and fluids at the Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area, the paddlers headed back to Conway.