Leave No Trace Awareness Workshop

American Whitewater and Lower Dolores Boating Advocates recently sponsored a Leave No Trace Awareness Workshop on March 31 in Dolores, Colorado. Nine whitewater enthusiasts from the Four Corners area joined Rick Ryan, retired Bureau of Land Management river ranger and LNT Master Educator for a fun and informative day. Volunteer stewardship activities such as this provide excellent opportunities for AW’s members and affiliate clubs to demonstrate leadership in river protection efforts.

Various hands-on activities reinforced the 7 LNT principles for western river corridors. Rick did a fabulous job of leading discussions about how they apply specifically to the Dolores River. Of particular concern on the Dolores is the protection of archaeological sites and rock art panels. We also learned how pet owners can help minimize the impacts of their animals. Because the river season is so short, social impacts are often concentrated and crowding can be an issue. Participants shared their own stories and suggestions for addressing these problems. As one volunteer put it, “What really made an impression on me were the exercises Rick involved us in to really help us see how different the same scenario can look through different eyes.”

The highlight of the day was Rick’s demonstration of his movable fire pan system. This drove home the point to many of us that leaving no trace provides pragmatic solutions for camping issues, while protecting the resource at the same time. And the banana boats we cooked in the coals sealed the deal! Thoroughly dousing the fire and straining the coals for proper disposal wrapped up the demonstration. Other activities reinforced the need for good river kitchen practices and proper sanitation.

Participants concluded the day with a discussion of effective ways to share what they learned with others. By communicating our passion for the wild, unspoiled nature of the river canyon, we can gently remind others of the rationale for leaving no trace. We all have stories of how a river trip or canyon hike left an indelible mark on us; drawing out stories from other visitors creates a starting point for discussions about our individual and cumulative impacts.

This project was designed to assist the BLM in managing the river corridor for whitewater recreation. The Tres Rios field office no longer funds a river ranger position, so it is up to the boating community to educate others and ourselves about using the resource responsibly. River stewardship begins at home. Phase 2 of this project will involve outreach to other whitewater enthusiasts at boat launch sites this spring and at the Dolores River Festival on June 2. Who knows, we might even break out the fire pan and make some banana boats!