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Western River Boating Ethics

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Skilled River Runners Leave No Trace

To protect fragile canyon resources and enhance your enjoyment, the following are required of all overnight boating parties on the Dolores River:

  • Firepans for all open fires
  • Porta-potty for human waste
  • Strainer for dishwater

Refuse, Food and Liquid Wastes

When we drop food scraps on the ground during food preparation and eating, or when we are careless with garbage, we encourage ants, flies, and other animals to inhabit camp areas.  A scrim tarp used as a kitchen floor will catch food scraps and other micro-trash which otherwise would be lost in the sand or ground cover.

Liquid wastes like dishwater and coffeegrounds must be strained for solids, and these solids packed out.

Strained dishwater and leftover liquids are poured into the main current of the river, not on the beach or in eddies.

Cooking grease should be packed out.  If buried, animals are likely to dig it up.

Soap degrades water quality affecting the natural riparian plants and animals which serve as the base of food chains.  Biodegradable soap may be used sparingly in the main river, but is prohibited in springs and side streams.

straining garbage at campsite


relaxing at the campsite

Firepans eliminate the obvious signs of camp fires and protect the natural environment.  Fires built in rock rings damage ground cover and soils and the rock rings scar the natural beauty of campsites and reduce the amount of space available for sleeping and cooking areas.

Elevate firepans with rocks to avoid scorching sand or blackening the soil.  Utilize a fire blanket underneath the firepan as additional ground protection and to catch burning embers.  A piece of old fire shelter makes a good fire blanket.

Charcoal decomposes very slowly and if thrown into the river it will only wash up on a downstream beach. Use unburned charcoal in succeeding day's campfires and eventually carry it out along with other garbage.

Please pack in your own firewood whenever possible or just use gas stoves or charcoal.  Driftwood piles provide unique wildlife habitat and are no longer readily replenished on the Dolores River due to controlled water releases from McPhee Reservoir.

Human Waste

In the arid river environment, solid human waste decomposes very slowly.  All human waste should be carried out in a reusable porta-potty (which can be emptied at an RV dump station).

A river campsite can quickly be transformed into a large "cat box" by just one party utilizing the "cat hole" method of disposal.  Just imagine how many groups of people will use that same campsite in one season--day after day.

Due to a lack of cleansing rain, urine and its odor remain in the arid inorganic soils of the canyon bottom for a long time.  Given the sterile nature of urine, boaters should urinate in the river at flows above 500 cfs (cubic feet per second).  To illustrate, 180 people urinating in a stream flowing at 500 cfs theoretically results in a dilution of 1 part urine to 5,669,291 parts water.  At that flow and dilution level, urine does not present a biological health hazard.

porta-potty at campsite

Our actions play an important role in nature!

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