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Traveler's Shoes

Leave No Trace

Below are the seven basic principles of the Leave No Trace ethic.  Integrate them into your Great Waters adventure!

1. Plan Ahead & Prepare

  • Consider avoiding high visitor use areas and find new places to explore at one of NW NJ’s 120+ water access points!

  • Learn the rules governing your desired activity (e.g., NJ freshwater fishing regulations) and the open space that you plan to recreate  

  • Know your public access points to avoid trespassing on private property, unless in an emergency

  • Contact landowners and be respectful of their concerns if you need to pass through private lands 


  • Bring the right gear— food, water, footwear, clothing, flotation devices and safety gear, etc. — to keep you safe and comfortable given the terrain, activity, and shifting weather conditions

  • Be aware of local conditions/weather patterns:

2. Minimize Your Physical Impact

  •  Disperse visitation away from times/areas of heavy use 


  • Concentrate travel on the middle of existing trails and reduce trail edge use when avoiding obstacles like mud puddles

  • Enter rivers at existing access points or otherwise at naturally low gradient stream banks

  • Walk on durable surfaces like bare rock and gravel, where possible

  • Camp in designated areas only where you’re unlikely to worsen existing human impacts  

  • Avoid wading through aquatic organism breeding areas, especially in the spring and fall, and aquatic vegetation beds 


  • Check local river flows monitored by the USGS here

  • Afternoon thunderstorms arrive with short notice in hilly terrain

  • Wind on large lakes like Hopatcong and Round Valley can generate large waves and tiresome or unsafe boating/swimming conditions

  • Ice and cold water are particularly dangerous winter hazards to navigate. Use these links to learn how to stay safe on frozen water and wintery trails.  

  • Understand your experience and comfort level and select activities and terrain to match  

  • Swim in designated areas

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Plan meals to reduce excessive food waste, packaging, and messes  

  • Plan to pack out whatever waste you generate— including fishing line, old lures or soft plastics, bait cups, and entrails— by bringing your own garbage bag

  • Don’t release unused bait—non-native baitfish, worms, and crayfish can significantly impact ecosystems if they become established

  • Avoid fishing with lead sinkers that can poison birds and other wildlife

  • Use designated bathrooms, or contact the land manager to learn how to properly dispose of human waste on longer backcountry trips

4. Leave What You Find

  • Keep wood and other organic matter in streams whenever possible, except when they present an unavoidable safety hazard for boating or flood risk

  • If practicing catch and release, use barbless hooks, fight fish quickly, and handle them in the water during release

  • Avoid unintentionally moving invasive species among waterbodies by cleaning, draining, and drying

  • Minimize major disturbances to the riverbed and banks like rock dam construction

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Most NJ open spaces don’t allow fires: check with the land manager and local weather-based burn regulations before your trip


  • If fires are permitted, buy firewood locally to avoid transporting invasive species


  • If harvesting wood, collect dead, downed, small wood from a large area around the fire ring


  • Keep fires small, burn wood to ash, don’t leave a fire unattended, and soak fires with water

6. Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance

  • Consider the impacts of noise on wildlife  

  • Consider the stresses of catch and release fishing and how to minimize them

  • If keeping fish, dispatch them quickly using current best practices

  • Adhere to seasonal fishing or waterbody closures to avoid disturbing animals during sensitive life history periods

  • Control pets

  • Secure food and waste properly to avoid attracting animals 

7. Be Considerate of Others

  • Share the River: paddlers, boaters, anglers, hikers, horseback riders, residents, and more all have a stake and interest in our waterways. Learn about, respect, and accommodate river uses that may differ from your own preferences.


  • Paddle defensively, especially where motorized craft are permitted

  • Stay safe to keep others safe: endangering yourself may endanger your partners and potential rescuers

  • Control pets

  • If you have the opportunity, consider visiting busy sites during off hours

  • When on foot, yield to pack animals on their downhill side

Now get out there and enjoy our Great Waters!
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