Water Trails & Paddling

Building a Launch

National Park Service and River Management Society have useful guidelines for developing water recreation access sites: 
Planning, Designing, Constructing and Operating Blue Trail Launch Sites
By Dave Teffeteller, Coosawattee Watershed Alliance
An overview of site selection, permitting, design and cost estimating, construction, capitalization and maintenance.
Presented at Georgia River Network’s ‘Water Trails that Work’ Workshop.
Designing and Constructing a Launch
By Don Wells from Georgia Mountain Stewards
Don Wells talks about how he and his crew designed and constructed canoe and kayak launches for the Coosawattee River Water Trail.
Presented at Georgia River Network’s Weekend for Rivers Conference.
Video coming soon!
Permitting Construction of a Canoe/Kayak launch in Georgia
By Keith Parsons, Georgia EPD Water Protection Division
One of the biggest parts of building a Water Trail is creating places to put in and take boats out of the river. Keith Parsons talks about how to apply for the correct permits necessary to build your launch.
Presented at Georgia River Network’s Weekend for Rivers
Video coming soon!
Corps of Engineers
Savannah District Regulatory
This will put you on the permitting page. Look for Nationwide Permits.
The general phone number for the Savannah Office is: 1-800-448-2402.
For projects in the piedmont and mountains call the Morrow office at 678-422-2721 and ask for the project manager for the particular county the project would be located in.
For SW Ga. call the Albany office at 229-430-8567 (Lower Flint, Lower Chattahoochee, Suwannee, Ochlocknee river basins).
Georgia EPD
Georgia EPD Stream Buffer Variance Permits would be needed for impacts within the 25 foot protected buffer (50 feet for trout waters) of streams and rivers.
Visit: https://www.georgiaepd.org/Documents/epdforms_wpb.html#erosion
There will be some contact names and numbers for help.
EnviroGrid: This product was originally developed for the US Forest Service to help stabilize forest roads. It is a cellar containment structure which when opened to its full extended size and filled with gravel can support heavy loads. EnviroGrid was used for the Etowah River Water Trail Amicalola WMA Site.
 Restroom Options & Specs at Water Trail Access Locations

The biggest concern when developing a water trail is the usability and comfort of the put-ins, because without a good put-in it is harder to get people (especially families) on the river. A major factor in developing an appealing place to start and end your day on the river is the availability of a restroom that is clean and private. Being able to run into a restroom to change out of wet clothes or to use the restroom before piling back into the car has a tremendous, and often overlooked, influence on a day on the river. Having clean and well-managed restroom facilities plays a major role in consistent use of your put-in.

The information and chart below outlines the basics about each of the main restroom options including: port-a-potty, vault-style, composting, and conventional flush toilets.

Composting Toilet

Another option for a restroom facility is a Composting Toilet. Composting toilets are extremely composting-toiletenvironmentally-friendly and use human waste to create a fertilizer, but they do have their issues. Most composting toilets are found in RV’s, boats, and in some homes, because of the low frequency of use. Inability to handle a high volume of users is the primary limitation of composting toilets, as they require sawdust or woodchips to be added to the mix at the end of every day (at the very least), both to absorb moisture and maintain the necessary Carbon-Nitrogen ratio in the compost. Without an appropriate amount of moisture absorption, odor and insects become a problem. Composting toilets must also be kept within a specific temperature range (depending on climate), must drain well, and the chamber that holds the waste must be properly aerated to ensure a lack of odor. Typically, a composting toilet will cost about $1000-$1500. After that, expenses are very low, but maintenance is labor-intensive. A composting toilet would be ideal for an outfitter or similarly existing structure to supplement or take the place of their restrooms, as it would be easily serviceable.


If your primary concern is cost, then the port-a-potty is the best option. Tried and true, the port-a-pottyPortalette fulfills only the most basic restroom needs, and is the cheapest option. Ranging from $85 to $110 a month for a single, and about $150 a month for a handicap-accessible stall. In addition to this low cost, port-a-potties have extremely low maintenance fees, and can go just about anywhere. The primary issue facing port-a-potties is the odor, as well as ease of vandalism. Because of the simplicity of a port-a-potty, there is nowhere for the odor to go but back into the capsule, and because they are so light, it is easy to move them or push them over. The major selling point of a port-a-potty is the low price. At an average cost of $93.00 per unit, you can rent a port-a-potty for almost 30 years for the cost of installing an upper-level single unit vault toilet. This time frame does not account for any sort of incident, natural or otherwise, that would damage the port-a-potty or be cause for replacing one.

Vault Toilets

The next option for restroom facilities is a far more permanent installation than a port-a-potty, and one vaultthat is more at home in a national park than a jobsite. Vault toilets are roofed, enclosed structures that have a foundation, and offer a far more comfortable experience than a port-a-potty. There are several options for vault toilets ranging from pre-fabricated vaults that are placed into the ground as a single unit, to a completely customizable restroom facility that is tailor-made to your specifications. Most vault toilets function by collecting concentrated waste in an underground tank that is highly ventilated to reduce smell. The primary issue with vault-style toilets is that the vast majority of them are very expensive upon installation, with prices for a single ranging from $13,000-$34,000, and double units costing between $26,000 and $58,000. Despite this high up-front cost, vault toilets provide a level of comfort not found anywhere else, and will last far longer than any port-a-potty on the market. The real value of the vault style toilet is in the longevity and aesthetic value that far exceeds that of a port-a-potty. In a high-traffic area, the vault toilet is superior for its increased capacity and ability to be used regularly without immediately requiring maintenance. Plus, stainless steel or porcelain fixtures combined with the ease of applying a new coat of paint, and the ability to lock the restroom, greatly reduces potential for vandalism. While the vault toilet is more of an up-front investment than the port-a-potty, it is well worth the money in the long run.

Some vault toilets do pump water into the toilet bowl to clear out any remaining excrement, and these then drain into a separate tank that must be pumped out. These low-flow options are at the top of the cost bracket, costing between $35,000 to $59,000 depending on the model you choose. These units are quite expensive, but with the price comes an odor-free and clean restroom experience.

For a list of contractors with experience in the construction of stand-alone restroom facilities click on the following:  Georgia Certified Septic Tank Installer Companies  and  Georgia Certified Septic Tank Pumper Companies

Micro-Flush Toilets
Micro-Flush Toilets are the answer to the largest problem that is faced by a conventional vault toilet or Floating toiletporta-potty style restroom. When trash like waste paper and disposable diapers are placed in vault toilet tanks it can disrupt the pumping out of waste, and creates a cluster of bacteria that is hard to remove. Micro-flush toilets have a barrier that prevents these items being placed into their waste reservoirs, and use a small amount of water to flush the waste into a separate tank, in a similar style to a flush-style vault toilet. These tanks can hold up to 1,000 uses worth of waste between pump outs, and the two examples of micro-flush toilets that have been constructed in national parks have handled heavy use with few mechanical issues at all.

Conventional Flush Toilets
If none of the earlier options appeal to you, then perhaps installing a conventional flush toilet may be the best option for you. This is by far the most permanent option of all, and requires the installation of a septic tank and a water line or well to supply the plumbing. Because of this, there are numerous permits to meet sanitation and drainage requirements that vary from county to county. This option also requires the construction of a structure to provide privacy and protection from the elements, which is an additional expense that is avoided by choosing a vault, micro-flush, or porta-potty option. A conventional flush toilet uses clean water to clear the waste from the bowl and pump it into a septic tank where it is stored until it is pumped out. A conventional flush toilet would be ideal for construction near an already water-equipped structure, so that you would only need to run a water line. Unfortunately the high variability from job to job makes it hard to provide an accurate base price for installation, but another benefit of conventional flush toilets is that there are huge numbers of contractors that are well qualified and easy to reach.

Restroom Spec Spreadsheet Coming Soon!

126 South Milledge Avenue, Suite E3, Athens, Georgia 30605 | (706) 549-4508 (phone) | info@garivers.org