No Wake, No Trace: LNT for Paddlers

February 23, 2018
LNT for Paddlers
Matt BrabenderPracticing the 7 Leave No Trace principles for paddlers promotes a lasting environmental ethic.

Thanks to the efforts of conservation groups and the effectiveness of federal, state, and local clean-water policies, many of New England’s most iconic rivers—including the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Merrimack—are cleaner today than they were in decades past, says Kristen Sykes, AMC’s director of conservation strategies. Despite the improvements, there is no guarantee better conditions will remain. “River-goers play a big part in ensuring our waters continue to thrive by following the seven Leave No Trace principles,” says Sykes, an avid paddler of the 410-mile Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail (CRPT). Originally developed by the U.S. Forest Service to minimize hiker impacts, the following principles were adapted by the American Canoe Association for paddlers to practice.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Review regulations and permits beforehand, and consult an updated river guidebook and map or online mapping app. Sykes recommends the interactive CRPT map.
  • Schedule your trip around river flows appropriate for your group’s ability.
  • Avoid holidays and other times of high-river use. Paddle in small numbers and leave group campsites for large groups.
  • Prepare for weather and other environmental hazards.
  • Repackage food at home to minimize carrying excess waste.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Avoid trampling fragile shoreline and beach plants.
  • When in camp, use established footpaths and designated tent pads.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Leave the river and campsites in better shape than you found them.
  • Wash dishes at least 75 feet away from water sources.
  • Use a washable, reusable toilet, or other approved method, to pack out human waste, toilet paper, and hygiene products.
  • Dispose of human waste properly. Use campsite privies when available; otherwise, bury human waste in a 6- to 8-inch-deep cat hole at least 200 feet away from water.

Leave What You Find

  • Do not build structures, cairns, or dig trenches in campsites.
  • Avoid introducing non-native species, e.g. live bait or invasive milfoil, by cleaning crafts and equipment between trips.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Use a portable camping stove instead of a campfire for cooking meals.
  • Where permitted, build fires, keeping them small and in control, in designated fire rings with dead and downed wood only. Never cut live trees or peel birch bark.
  • Burn all wood and charcoal to ash and put out campfires completely.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Avoid island and shoreline sanctuaries designated for migratory birds and other protected wildlife.
  • Control pets or leave them at home.
  • Protect wildlife by storing food and trash securely and never feeding fish or animals.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Be efficient while loading and unloading boats at access points.
  • Keep noise to a minimum on the water and in campsites.
  • Nonmotorized crafts usually have the right-of-way over powerboats.


  • Put your skills to use! Discover 13 ways to explore the Delaware River.

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Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith is a former managing editor of AMC Outdoors.