Leave No Trace
Why Leave No Trace?
An increase in boating activity along the John Day River means an increase in the signs of human presence: more fire rings on the beaches, more piles of toilet paper behind the trees, more bits of trash around the camp, etc. The greater the number of people, the more each person's actions affects the condition of the land and the quality of the experience for all.
By practicing a few simple Leave No Trace camping techniques, the signs of human pressure on the river canyon can be greatly reduced. Please help protect the river you know and love by following these Leave No Trace techniques for river corridors:
Prevent Wildfires - Obey Fire Restrictions
When a fire closure is in effect, all fires are prohibited including the use of charcoal. Propane and white gas are permitted. Smoking is permitted only while in a boat on the river or inside your vehicle.
Protect Campsites from Fire Scars - Use a Firepan
Firepans eliminate unsightly campfire rings and their trash and protect the natural environment. When campfires are allowed, use of a metal firepan is required, so that no trace of your fire remains.
A firepan is a metal tray with rigid sides at least two inches high. Oil drains pans, small barrels cut in half, and backyard barbecue grills make effective and inexpensive firepans. Firepans are also available from river and horsepacking equipment suppliers. Elevate the firepan with flat rocks to avoid scorching sand or blackening the soil. Locate the firepan close to the river and away from dry grasses and other vegetation.
Burn only wood from home, charcoal, driftwood, or dead vegetation that is collected from the ground. Do not cut standing vegetation, either alive or dead. Carry out all ash and charcoal remains. Burn your fire down to white ash, let it cool completely, and pack out all of the ash with your trash.
Keep a Clean Camp - Pack It In/Pack It Out
Pack out all litter and garbage. Remove food scraps from the kitchen area to avoid attracting ants, flies, and rodents. Do not bury trash as animals will dig it up. Strain all dish/waste water through a screen to remove food particles, and pack them out. Scatter waste water over a wide area, away from campsites, at least 200 ft. from the river. Soap should be used sparingly; even biodegradable varieties take a long time to break down.
Preserve Campsite Quality - Carry Out Human Waste
In arid river canyons like the John Day, solid human waste decomposes very slowly. A river campsite can be transformed into a large "cat box" overnight by just one party utilizing the "cat hole" method of disposal. Imagine how many people use the same campsite in one season, night after night. Current use levels make it unacceptable to leave human waste within the river canyon.
On overnight trips, all boating groups are required to carry and use a leak-proof, portable, reusable toilet system to remove solid human waste from the river canyon. The toilet must be large enough to service the entire party for the complete length of the trip. Toilets using plastic bags are not acceptable, with the exception of the Wag Bag or similar human waste pouch designed for this purpose, which are permitted. Used Wag Bags must be transported in a leak-proof container. River toilet dump stations and special Wag Bag disposal containers are available at Clarno and Cottonwood take-outs. A list of RV dump stations is posted on BLM bulletin boards. Disposing of Wag Bags in a river toilet dump station or vault toilet is prohibited.
To protect canyon resources and enhance visitor enjoyment, BLM requires the following of all overnight boating parties on the John Day River:
- The use of a firepan to contain campfires; with all campfire residue carried out of the canyon
- The use of a portable toilet or human waste disposal bags to remove all solid human waste from the river canyon