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Play Hard & Leave Only Paddle Strokes

Posted: 05/01/2019
by Kevin Colburn

The rivers are rising and warming up, and if you are like us your calendar is filling up with river trips scattered around your region and beyond. One of the many cool things about paddling is how we can traverse natural landscapes without even leaving a footprint. While our paddle strokes disappear when their tiny whirlpools collapse, it’s still a good time of year to reflect on how we can be the best possible visitors to the special places we visit. Here are some tips and resources.
 
Clean, Drain, and Dry Your Stuff
 
There are some nasty invasive plants, mussels, and other critters in certain rivers that could hitch a ride in your boat or on your gear and infest the next river you paddle. It’s hard to know which water bodies have river-choking disasters like rock snot and zebra mussels in them, so it’s best to assume they all do. Empty your boat of water, sticks, and mud after each trip. Rinse your booties. Dry your gear if at all possible. Clean, Drain, and Dry folks. And stop at all those annoying boat check stations. Check out a video about aquatic invasive species here
 
Understand Strainers Before Managing Them
 
Wood in rivers can have significant ecological value, and can also pose considerable recreational risks. Often though, the most dangerous pieces of wood don’t offer the most ecological value. We hope if you are thinking about moving or removing wood for safety reasons you’ll learn more about the tradeoffs, follow any local rules, and strive to do no harm by minimizing the extent to which you move strainers. 
 
Tread Lightly on the Land and Water
 
Paddlers can be very low impact with just a little intention in how we move through river environments. We need to plan our trips well to avoid epics, walk and camp in the right spots, bury our poop at least 200 feet from the water or carry it out on high-use rivers, avoid littering of course, and follow the rules specific to the river if there are any. That’s a good start, but you can learn more on our leave no trace page
 
Share the Rivers, Trails, and Communities
 
We’ve reached out to other recreation groups and communities to see how we can best share rivers and trails with them. Did you know that it is important to talk to horses as they approach on a trail? Have you thought lately about the bright “paddler ambassador” sign on top of your car (your boat)? Check out some friendly recommendations on how to leave a good impression. 
 
Give Salmon Plenty of Space
 
Spawning salmon have been through a lot, are busy, and need to focus. Paddlers that get out on salmon-bearing streams should understand the spawning seasons, and do what they can to recognize and avoid salmon nests (redds). You can learn more by watching this video that we made just for you.  
 
Now get out there and have a blast!
Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC