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Traveler's Shoes

Leave No Trace

Enjoying our Great Waters in the future requires enjoying them responsibly today.

We celebrate and aim to protect the multifaceted benefits that outdoor recreation brings to northwestern New Jersey’s residents and visitors. However, we also recognize that increased visitation increases pressures on and possible human impacts to the ecosystems in which we recreate. While creative management and funding to support managers will be critical for alleviating recreational impacts in high use hotspots, Leave No Trace stewardship ethics provide an immediately available framework for individuals to minimize their impacts on public lands. Below we highlight examples of LNT principles that are particularly meaningful when recreating near our waterways.

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:  

    • 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

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 

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

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

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

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 

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

Be Aware of River Management Issues

  • 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

To learn more, visit:

  • Leave No Trace

  • American Whitewater

  • American Canoe Association

  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area River Safety

  • Leave No Trace - Angling

  • The Conservation Foundation – Be River Responsible

Image by Michael Niessl
Now get out there and enjoy our Great Waters!
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