Developing Canoe Trails in Australia – The lived experience of a nature-tourism initiative through the eyes of a veteran Outdoor Educator and a third-year tertiary Outdoor and Environmental Education student.

Mr Chris Townsend1, Ms Kelly Gledhill1

1La Trobe University – Dept. Of Outdoor And Environmental Education, 2La Trobe University – Dept. Of Outdoor And Environmental Education

Through the lenses of a veteran outdoor educator, observations of paddler behavior around a variety of recreational paddling locations in Victoria led me to suspect that a significant percentage of the booming population of paddle-craft owners might need some guidance, through the form of formal canoe trails, to foster more meaningful participation in self-guided water based recreation.

A quantitative analysis of all formal canoe trails in Australia was conducted with the purpose of systematically investigating the variety and characteristics of existing and proposed formal canoe trails. [Geographic distribution; user groups; infrastructure & facilities; way-finding strategies; communication of safety content; interpretation of environmental and cultural knowledge]. Recommendations include the development and sharing of planning resources for stakeholders and land managers to better cater to the unique needs of paddlers, including the incorporation of well-considered interpretative strategies to foster land/waterway custodianship.

The La Trobe University Department of Outdoor and Environmental Education was then invited to form a partnership with the Loddon Shire in the design and implementation of a series of canoe trails along the Loddon River System in Victoria. Drawing on the findings of the study, third year Outdoor and Environmental Education Students worked cooperatively with the Shire to plan, design and implement multiple aspects of the Loddon canoe trails, with a particular focus on environmental and cultural interpretation.

This presentation firstly outlines the study and its findings before a third-year student involved in the Loddon Canoe Trails project reports on the experience of implementing this collaborative and innovative nature tourism initiative.


Chris Townsend, Associate lecturer in outdoor and environmental education at Latrobe University in Bendigo. Passionate about fostering journey based programs on flat and open water. His core teaching focus assists third year students in transitioning from leaders to teachers adept at sharing the stories of the rivers they teach on and about. Current research focuses on paddlers’ encounters with all things natural in river environments.

Kelly Gledhill is a forth-coming graduate from La Trobe University, Bendigo, completing a Bachelor of Outdoor and Environmental Education, sub majoring in Nature Tourism. Kelly grew up in Geelong and spent most of her time on Victoria’s surf coast, she has always been passionate about spending time in outdoors and observing wildlife.
She has always had a strong connection with the ocean and this love of coastal environments has extended to river environments when she moved to Bendigo, regional Victoria to study at university. She enjoys slow paced journeys, allowing a focus on the surrounding landscape to utilise her naturalist and interpretation skills.

About the Association

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA) was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

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