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Canyon Country
Minimum Impact Practices

The "Leave No Trace" Approach to Enjoying the Canyon Country

Each year, millions of visitors enjoy Canyon Country. The impact of so much use is threatening the area's biological and cultural resources. You can help protect this fragile and beautiful land by following these five minimum impact practices.

1. Tread lightly when traveling and leave no trace of your camping. Drive and ride only on roads and trails where such travel is allowed; hike only on established trails, on rock, or in washes. Camp at designated sites or, where allowed, at previously-used sites. Avoid placing tents on top of vegetation and use a camp stove instead of making a campfire. Unless signs indicate otherwise, leave gates open or closed as you find them.

Why it matters: Much of this area is a desert where plants are sparse and grow very slowly. Shallow soils erode quickly when vegetation is removed or protective cryptobiotic soil crusts are destroyed. These crusts are a complex of slowly-growing cyanobacteria, algae, mosses and lichens that bind the soil together, retain scarce water, and provide a usable source of nitrogen for desert plants. Your tracks do matter, once plants or soil crust are damaged, they may not recover in your lifetime. Wood is a scarce resource that provides wildlife habitat and contributes to nutrient cycling. Gates help protect fragile resources.
Cryptobiotic Soil
Cryptobiotic Soil - Please keep Off!

How to help: Strive to leave no trace of your outing. When driving, riding, and hiking avoid taking shortcuts and travelling through cryptobiotic soils. Don't be a trail or campsite "pioneer" who leaves a new path or campsite for others to use. Select an area of bare soil for your tent. Use a camp stove rather than burning firewood. If you must have a fire, use a fire pan and bring your own wood. Never cut live or standing trees.

2. Help keep Canyon Country clean. Pack out your trash and recycle it, clean up after less thoughtful visitors, and dispose of human waste properly.

Why it matters: Trash, human waste and toilet paper are significant problems that can quickly become health hazards and eyesores. Food scraps and garbage can turn wildlife into problem animals. No one wants to walk or camp where someone has left trash and human waste.

How to help:Make it a point to clean up campsites and day use areas during your visit. Take out all trash, including toilet paper and food scraps, and dispose of it properly through recycling centers and landfills. In some areas, campers must use developed campgrounds or utilize portable toilets at designated undeveloped sites. Where special rules don't apply, bury solid human waste in the upper few inches of soil.

3. Protect and conserve scarce desert water resources. Camp at least 300 feet from isolated water sources to allow for wildlife access. Where possible, carry your own drinking water. Leave potholes undisturbed and wash well away from pools and springs.

Why it matters: Many desert animals, especially birds, depend on the plants around isolated water resources for food and habitat. Camping near water sources damages plants and prevents wildlife from approaching. Small quantities of pollutants can make springs and ponds unusable for wildlife. Body lotions and vehicle lubricants can remain in the water and harm aquatic life, which in egg or larval form may be invisible to the naked eye.

How to help: Camp at least 300 feet from water sources to allow wildlife access. Where feasible, carry all the water you will need for drinking and personal hygiene. Bathe and wash dishes away from desert water sources. Cool off in the shade, not in springs and potholes. Avoid driving or riding through desert water sources.

4. Allow space for wildlife. When encountering wildlife, maintain your distance and remain quiet. Teach children not to chase or pick up animals. Keep pets under control.

Why it matters: Canyon Country has great wildlife viewing opportunities, including desert bighorn sheep, deer, elk, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, river otter and a variety of small creatures. Harassing or approaching wild animals will cause them to flee, possibly causing injury and definitely using up the vital energy reserves they need for mating, raising young, winter survival and other activities.

How to help; Watch animals from a distance. Where pets are allowed, keep them leashed and under control. Keep quiet in the back country; you will see more animals and not frighten them.

5. Leave historic sites, Native American rock art, ruins and artifacts untouched for the future. Admire rock art from a distance and never touch it. Stay out of ruins, leave artifacts in place, and report violations.

Why it matters; Canyon Country has an abundance of archaeological and historic sites, including rock art, historic inscriptions, old mines, cowboy camps, and Indian cliff dwellings. The people who created this legacy are gone. Now, the physical remains of their occupation are disappearing at an alarming rate. Small actions can add up to major damage. Rock art can be damaged just by touching it. The oil from fingertips speeds erosion by chemically altering ancient painted pigments and the rock itself. Sitting or climbing on rock walls turns ruins into rubble. Walking across middens, the ancient trash heaps below ruins can damage sites. Moving or taking artifacts destroys their scientific value.

How to help; Leave all sites and artifacts undisturbed. Remember not to touch rock art or make marks on canyon walls. Leave artifacts in place and stay out of ruins to avoid damaging them. When approaching a cultural site, avoid walking on soft soils to reduce the possibility of erosion. Report vandalism to the nearest local authorities.

Special Rules. In some areas, visitors must follow special rules designed to protect natural and cultural resource values. Ask at agency offices and visitor centers if any special rules apply to the area you plan to visit.

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