A flotilla of muscle-powered watercraft will make its way down the lower Yakima River on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the Tapteal Water Trail.
Those interested in joining should meet at the Chamna Natural Preserve in Richland at 9:30 a.m. Departure time is 10 a.m.
Kayaks, canoes and other boats with paddles will float five miles to Wye Park at Bateman Island, where shuttles will take participants back to their vehicles.
Blow-up flotation devices such as inner tubes are not allowed, said organizer Dirk Peterson, a member of the all-volunteer Tapteal Greenway Association. Life jackets are required. There is no cost.
The Tapteal Water Trail is the culmination of a three-year effort to map the river with information signs for boaters. The full trail runs 30 miles from Benton City to Bateman Island. There are 12 trailheads along the way, with boards where boaters can stop and pick up a brochure that maps the route.
"The trailheads show people where they can put boats in the water and where to exit the river, and what the rules are," Peterson said. "We will have about 20 paddle boats for Saturday's events and we invite anyone to join us in the flotilla."
Peterson saw a wide variety of wildlife when he floated the trail last week -- Canada geese, goslings, mallard ducks, deer, yellow-headed black birds and osprey, he said.
Five more floats are planned May 31, June 21, July 12, Aug. 16 and an overnight venture Oct. 25-26. For more information, go to www.tapteal.org.
Columbia Kayak Adventures will provide guides for Saturday's float, said owner Chris Vowels.
The Tri-Cities is a water wonderland, and making access points more readily available to the public is a good thing, Vowels said. He plans to have some kayaks available at Chamna Natural Preserve should anyone want to rent one and join the flotilla.
"What's really cool about this water trail and the easier access is that it will give people a chance to see nature they don't see every day," Vowels said. "The (reader boards) and maps provided along the trail will increase interest to the area."
Another Tri-City kayak business, Greenies, will have a selection of kayaks at Wye Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., giving free demonstrations on how to operate a kayak to those interested in the sport.
"There are so many people in this area who enjoy using the waterways," said Darin Warnick, owner of Greenies. "And this trail will be very helpful in letting them know where they can put in the river and where to exit."
For advance information on kayak rentals, call Columbia Kayak Adventures at 947-5901 or Greenies at 946-3787.
The Tapteal Water Trail project was funded by a $10,000 grant from the REI Outdoor Gear and Clothing corporation, Peterson said.
The next phase will be a foot path that follows a similar path along the Yakima River, Peterson said.
"It'll be a while before that gets done, though," he said.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal