Essential Paddling Guide: Minimize Your Paddling Impacts

Paddling starts out as a low-impact activity in the National Park System, but keep the following tips in mind to ensure you leave the lowest possible impact.

* When coming ashore, be careful of soft banks that could collapse under your weight.

* Choose your tent site wisely, in an area that won’t be affected by storm runoff.

* Use camp stoves for cooking. They’re clean, easy to care for, and don’t require you to scour your campsite for fuel in the form of branches.

* Bring a small strainer that you can filter your kitchen wash water through to catch small morsels, and store them in your garbage.

* Avoid a campfire, but if you choose to have one, check the regulations of the specific park where you’ll be paddling to see if you’re required to have a fire pan to protect the soils beneath your fire or to see if there are designated fire rings to use. Be sure the fire is dead out before calling it a night or leaving camp.

* If you wash, carry water at least 200 feet from streams or lakes and avoid the use of soap (use sand or a pot scraper to scour your dishes instead). Scatter strained dishwater and disperse toothpaste on bare ground well away from your camp or water sources.

* Store your foods out of the reach of wildlife. Many backcountry sites have bear poles you can hang your items from. If none are available, hang your items from a branch at least 15 feet off the ground and 5 feet from the tree’s trunk.

* Have a trash bag(s) to haul out your garbage.

* If the backcountry sites don’t have toilets, carry a “groover,” a portable toilet, thar can handle your group’s needs.