This page presents some basic information and suggestions on how best to enjoy a safe campout in canyon country.
Minimum-impact camping depends more on attitude and awareness than on rules and regulations. And once you know the basics, you'll find that you can quickly adapt minimum-impact techniques to changing conditions. First, look at the environment—its soil, vegetation, wildlife and moisture, the amount and type of use the area receives, and the overall effect of your own presence there. Then use your judgment to determine the minimum-impact practices that are most suitable for the area you are visiting. The minimum-impact approach requires a little extra effort, but you'll enjoy the satisfaction that comes with leaving no trace.
These are just a few of the rules that a good camper follows:
- In most national parks and monuments, camping is not permitted within .5 miles of a highway or within sight or sound of park roads, maintained trails, or developed areas. Routes are not considered trails, so these stipulations do not apply in those areas.
- Camp at least 200 feet from any water source. Water is life to the wild inhabitants; do not obstruct their access. Camping well away from water sources also lessens the chance that you will inadvertently pollute them.
- Select your campsite with care. Use previously established campsites rather than create new ones. Reusing sites does impact them, but it also confines signs of human use to smaller areas. Choose sites with an absence of vegetation. The best campsites are sandy areas and slickrock benches. Do not camp in dry wash bottoms. Thunderstorms can send dangerous flash floods down canyons with little or no warning.
- Do not make campsite improvements, such as trenching around your tent, building rock shelters, cutting trees, limbs, or brush, or unnecessarily disturbing soil or vegetation. These practices leave ugly scars that testify to your presence for years and hasten soil erosion and compaction.
- Leave your campsite in as natural a state as possible. Carefully check your site to remove all traces of your stay.
- Camp out of view of other hikers if you encounter them. The backcountry is a large, lightly used area, so it is unlikely you will meet many other campers. If you do, respect their privacy and set up your own camp where you can both enjoy the solitude so many backpackers seek.
- In organized campgrounds dishes should be washed at the campsite. Water fountains or spigots are not to be used for washing dishes, cleaning fish, or bathing.
- In organized campgrounds, all wastewater must be dumped into camper service sinks located at comfort stations or at a disposal station if one is available.
- Drain buckets must be used on all drain hoses.
- When fish are cleaned, the unwanted parts must be placed in garbage cans. Fish are not to be cleaned at fountains.
- Select your site before daylight fades. It is usually better to choose an obviously well used, previously established campsite than to make a new campsite nearby. If the soil is already barren and compacted, you will do little additional harm to the area. Avoid sites where impact is just beginning. If left alone these areas will recover, while further use may cause long-lasting damage.
- Don't pitch your tent under dead limbs.
- Choose a flat, well-drained site for your tent. The most durable surfaces are rock, sand, gravel, or snow; pine needles or leaf litter; or dry, grassy meadows. Avoid camping on wet meadows, lichens and mosses, or flowering or woody plants. Avoid the fertile islands of vegetation and rich soil. Instead, concentrate your impact on more resistant terrain or established trails and campsites. Camping and traveling on exposed mineral soil, such as sand and gravel, often causes the least impact simply because fewer plants survive there. Sandy washes or arroyos may provide good camping and paths for travel when flash flooding is not a concern. Pristine areas can also provide good campsites, particularly if you choose sites with sandy or rocky surfaces. If you're not able to find a site with a resistant surface, keep your stay short and disperse your camp activities over a wide area to avoid trampling plants and compacting the soil.
- Beware of avalanches—camp well away from the bottom of snow-covered slopes.
- The best protection against lightning is a stand of medium-sized trees.
- Keep your water source clean; set up camp at least 70 paces away.
- Hang food away from your tent and higher than a bear can reach.
- Set up your kitchen a few minutes walk from your campsite and at least 70 paces from water sources. This keeps food odors away from your tent.
Your cooperation will preserve the wilderness quality for others to enjoy.
- Pitch camp away from lakes, streams, and trails.
- Bury human waste.
- Wash dishes, etc., away from streams and lakes.
- Leave your camp in a natural state; don't build improvements.
- Use existing fire rings; don't build new ones.
- Build small "indian" style fires.
- Drown your fire "dead out."
- Pack out rubbish that can't be burned, such as foil, cans, orange peels, etc.
- Buried garbage does not stay buried.
- If you pack with horses or other pack animals hobble or tether them between trees, off trails, and away from lakes and streams.
Before leaving camp, naturalize the area. Replace rocks and wood, and scatter needles, leaves, and twigs on the campsite. Scout the area to be sure that you've left nothing behind. Everything you packed into your camp should be packed out. Try to make it appear as if no one has been there.
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- Essential Guide to Wilderness Camping and Backpacking in the United States
- New Complete Walker
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