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Old 09-09-2009, 11:57 AM   #1
fisher39
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Paddlers' Impact

When it comes to discussions about the impact of various activities on wilderness, paddlers seem to get something of a free pass as if they just harmlessly float through an area without leaving any sort of sign of their presence.

I spend much of my time in an area that gets very little traffic, where the most evidence of recent human activity I ever see is an occasional footprint. This time, however, the rocks in a shallow stretch of stream that runs through the area bore multi-colored blazes in green and various shades of yellow from boat hulls, making it clear that a number of paddlers had scraped through in recent weeks. Although the marks don't have any ecological impact, it certainly compromised the wild feeling of the area, much like finding some boulder with a spot of bright spray paint on it, a beech carved with someone's initials, or ruts from an ATV. It's true that the marks were accidental and likely unavoidable, but I still think it qualifies as vandalism.

In addition to the boat hull blazes on the rocks, there was a pair of dirty, wet socks tucked into the grass at the end of short portage that meets the stream above the shallows. They were probably just forgotten and not left there on purpose, but it was a jarring sight nonetheless that showed a lack of care and respect for the area.

This area is quite remote and many hours from the closest access points, so the damage to its wild integrity can't be dismissed as being done by a bunch of disrespectful yahoos. These were likely experienced, "hard core" paddlers out seeking the same wilderness experience I do, but in doing so compromised it for those who follow.

I'll be returning in a few weeks with a wire brush to scrub down those rocks. Perhaps paddlers should consider adding a wire brush to their gear and observing "leave no trace" principles.
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Old 09-09-2009, 12:49 PM   #2
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other things

On day visits, probably the most significant impact paddlers have in wilderness, is their either unintentional or intentional too-close approaches to nesting birds such as common loons, bald eagles, and ospreys.

In camping territory, excessive removal of wood for fires, garbage left around, human waste, are the result of inconsiderate or lazy campers.

These bother me more than your peeve but I do see where such markings hint at intensive use vs. untouched wilderness.

This bothers me the most from a recent Bog River Trip. . . .Numerous campers in the water, clearly washing their bodies with bar soap and regular shampoos.
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Old 09-09-2009, 01:37 PM   #3
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I'm with you, adyaker, don't people realize that stuff doesn't break down in the water? Yuck!!!

Besides the tangible telltale signs of impact (garbage, soap, boat scrapings, etc.) what about the more intangible things? For example, the people that have no concept of what a wilderness voice is when paddling by camping areas or even worse, while in a camp within earshot of other campers. I'm not talking about quiet conversations that ramp up to occasional loader volumes. We were out on LTL earlier this year with some inconsiderate out howling at the top of his lungs out on the water at 10 PM for 10-15 minutes. As many of you know, this is not all that totally rare of an incident.

Granted, this kind of stuff leaves no lasting physical mark on the wilderness but it definitely leaves a small psychological scar on those of us that have to endure such foolishness.
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Old 09-09-2009, 01:56 PM   #4
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Marks from canoes?

You aren't serious are you? I am a very open minded about others ideas but!What would happen if you found a arrow head along the creek bed? You wouldn't complain about others before you that arrived would you? I don't see your example of spray paint as being anywhere close to what you observed. Lets keep it real on these post at the very least. I see your point, but I can't imagine another sole complaining about the paint from the bottom of someones canoe. There is alot of other bigger fish to fry out there. The socks and junk we find behind when camping are just plain lazy individuals or often very forgetful. I try to educate the young about the wild, not dicourage them from what they may see. I hope you take my point as just an observation, don't want to belittle you on your findings. Good camping to you and all others!
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Old 09-09-2009, 02:26 PM   #5
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I rarely post on a paddling thread, but I would point out here that climbers are routinely denigrated, and often banned from areas, solely due to the cosmetic appearance of white gymnastic chalk here and there on a cliff. If it were multicolored, we'd probably be shot on sight!

There is a broad spectrum of views on how stringently "Leave no Trace" should be observed. I think it's all reasonable, as long as what's good for the goose is good for the gander. The only thing that's a shame is when the players take positions that are hypocritical. I have no problem with believing that the canoe marks should be removed, or with believing that the marks are no big deal, as long as we stay consistent.
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Old 09-09-2009, 02:36 PM   #6
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Seeing marks from other canoes takes away from my wilderness experience about as much as seeing jet contrails in the sky. Or the sawing through of deadfall to keep a stream more easily navigable. It's not something I would reflect on.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:14 PM   #7
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I'll be returning in a few weeks with a wire brush to scrub down those rocks
And are you going to scrub the rocks with a steel wire brush? Steel wires that will imbed iron into the rockface to rust and leaving broken wire fragments that will get imbeded in the paws of animals that will soon die from the infection.

What do you do when hiking in the middle of nowhere and find a stone wall?
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:17 PM   #8
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I can't help saying, let's not be snobs about this. More outdoorsy than thou, better behaved than thou, more something than someone. Everyone enjoys life in their own way.

We need to stop these petty quibbles and unite against the accursed powerboaters.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:19 PM   #9
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Worrying about boat scrapings seems a bit extreme , though I will admit that heavily-scraped submerged rocks can be an eyesore (although I would not go so far as to call it vandalism, which is the intentional defacement of property). The only solutions to this dilemma would be:

1. Use untreated birch bark canoes (non-ecofriendly)

2. Rubberize your canoe (impractical)

3. Rubberize exposed and/or shallow rocks (cost-prohibitive)

4. Remove boulders from shorelines and streambed, and dredge the river and stream beds to make them deeper (cost-prohibitive BUT would generate job-growth)

5. Ban the use and possession of watercraft (including float tubes) on all bodies and courses of water unless the body or course of water is certified for such use (probably the *best* solution).

I would not recommend scraping the rocks with a wire brush. Technically, you are in violation of damaging the landscape, since some of the rock would invariably be scratched away. You could also potentially be scraping away algae, moss, and nematodes clinging to the rock.

Furthermore, if you do choose to scrape the rocks, any particles that fall into the water could be harmful or toxic to aquatic wildlife due to the ingestion of the particulate matter, including (but not limited to) fiberglass, kevlar, plactic, or resin-impregnated wood shavings.

It's a risky endeavor to scrape the rocks, because if a ranger happens to catch you scraping rocks, you will be hit with a fine and/or jail time for vandalism.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:24 PM   #10
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Poor fisher39.

Let's not all pile on too roughly.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:50 PM   #11
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Seeing marks from other canoes takes away from my wilderness experience about as much as seeing jet contrails in the sky. Or the sawing through of deadfall to keep a stream more easily navigable. It's not something I would reflect on.
As a fisherman and a paddler I occasionaly have issues with the removal of deadfall in streams. While the removal of the occasional strainer is needed I often feel that there are many that should be left for the health of the stream.

All things in moderation.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:51 PM   #12
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Sorry Fisher I can not support your idea to start wire brushing the rocks. It's a little over the top for us, but I think we all can always try just a little harder and comments like these help remind us of that. It is easy to get complacent and sloppy,to not chase that 4 inch piece of monofilament as it blows out of your reach. It is good to reinforce "leave no trace" when ever and where ever we can. Besides those paint scrapes are like trail markers to paddlers-they tell us we're going the right way! -yes that's a joke.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:53 PM   #13
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Context and setting

What's acceptable changes according to the context and setting. I think it's important to get a sense of where you are, what's around you and what precedent has been set by others. With those things in mind, one should act accordingly, trying to avoid doing anything, and especially leaving anything that doesn't conform to the environment one is in - simply leave it as you found it. The same marks that wouldn't make the slightest difference on the Raquette River make a huge difference on a small backcountry stream that rarely sees the hull of a boat.

If one ventures into a pristine wilderness setting, I think there is a responsibility to respect it and leave it in the same condition it was in when you entered it. In the past, I have backtracked for hours in search of an unaccounted for candy wrapper (found where I stopped for lunch), and I would certainly do it again. Needless to say I wouldn't bother doing the same in the city.
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Old 09-09-2009, 03:56 PM   #14
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Poor fisher39.

Let's not all pile on too roughly.
Ha! I asked for it...
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Old 09-09-2009, 04:22 PM   #15
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gray areas

There are certainly gray areas and points that are rather trivial compared to bigger issues. For example, if along a lakeshore, a coyote poops in the woods, that is nature. But if my lab along for a hike does the same, we have disturbed the wilderness setting. I suppose the difference is many dogs are brought along hiking and poop can accumulate. I myself will worry more about global warming, acid rain, shoreline development, etc. vs scraped rocks.
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Old 09-09-2009, 06:04 PM   #16
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TCD Used a Great Technical Rock Climbing Analogy

For 30 years, until my knees became just a wee bit tried, l was a technical rock, snow and ice climber in the West. And after I returned from Viet-Nam in the early 1970's, spent alot of my climbing time early and late seeason in the Oregon and Washington Cascades, as well as desert climbing in obscure places in the Great Basin. Spent also some time in Yosemite Valley

There were different best practice "style" rules (e.g. gear carried, type of protection, etc.) for different types of climbing, at different places, at different times of the year.

As climbing attracted more and more people, the easily accessible environment suffered, and the climbing "rules" multiplied - except for the early spring and winter climbing - much like early spring and winter paddling.

Been in the mountains in alot of places, but the Adirondacks stole my heart in the 1980's; and with due apologies to all who might feel differently, the Adirondacks is not a "pristine wilderness".

Once was x-country skiing a couple of hundred miles North of Montreal. I remarked to the guide how far north we were. The guide dipomatically gave me a geography lesson on how many more hundreds of miles were north of our current location in Quebec. - that be the wilderness!

How to have a great time outdoors, without "loving" the outdoor environment to death?

Don't have any easy answers.

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Old 09-09-2009, 07:02 PM   #17
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I don't know how the rest of you guys roll, but I have never intentionally left gelcoat on a rock. It happens, I am pissed when it does, but it happens none the less.

Maybe it's just me but I don't see a practical remedy for this.
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Old 09-10-2009, 04:45 PM   #18
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Needless to say I wouldn't bother doing the same in the city.
isn't that a double standard way of looking at things?
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:21 PM   #19
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I'm all for leaving an area as I found it, but to get upset about something that really is unavoidable if you use paddlecraft in your pursuit of outdoor enjoyment is just a little over the top. Littering, fire pits, cat holes, ok. But lets be at least reasonable. Your footprints MAY last a heck of a lot longer than that paint scrape. (I would reference the footprints found by the Leakeys in Africa from 20,000 years ago). If you expect TOTAL wilderness with no evidence of any other human ever being there, I think you were born 300 years and 6 billion people too late.
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:27 PM   #20
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In the past, I have backtracked for hours in search of an unaccounted for candy wrapper (found where I stopped for lunch), and I would certainly do it again.
I use a different strategy. First, I make sure that I pick up litter left by others, doing my best to graciously assume they dropped it accidentally. And second, I hope that someone does the same for me when they find mine. It works for me, and saves me hours of backtracking.
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