The human race has traditionally viewed clean water as an infinite resource. It is easy to understand why we think this way  as we're paddling Canada's wilderness areas. 

At times it is difficult to tell whether we are paddling in a vast area of water filled with islands, or paddling in a vast area of land with many lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps and marshes. The water seems to be never- ending. Unfortunately, this idea is a misconception we have to change.

The stress we place on our environment is cumulative. The small amounts of toxins we place into our water and air may not be great, but the effect of those materials is multiplied by the many people who use the wilderness. If is sometimes difficult for people to believe that rinsing shampoo from their hair in Lake Huron could have any significant effect, but actions like these will affect a lake's natural balance. Justifying such an act by saying "it's just a little bit of soap or shampoo" is the same as saying that it's morally acceptable to shoplift as long as the item we steal isn't too expensive.

Much as we practice no-trace camping on our sites, we have to practice no-trace camping in our lakes and rivers. We have to afford our water the same degree of respect as we do our land. We have no right to alter ecosystems in any way, be it on land or in the water. What do we have to think about as we use our lakes and rivers?

  • Does soap really have to be used? When clothes become soiled, they can be rinsed out without soap The same applies to our bodies. Forsaking soap or shampoo for a day or two is not a major sacrifice if it helps conserve the pristine state of our water. Honestly - your hair is going to be ugly anyway, after wearing a hat all day - it's not a beauty contest out there!
  • If soap is going to be used, be certain that it is biodegradable. There are many types of liquid soap available at camping and outdoor stores which do not contain phosphates and are completely biodegradable.
  • Even if a soap is biodegradable, it is not safe to put that soap directly into the water. All soap, whether biodegradable or not affects lake chemistry in a detrimental fashion.
  • If we wash ourselves with soap, we should be 200 ft. away from the lake, and away from any drainage courses which would channel the material into the lake. We should soap up at this location, and have someone pour pails of water on us to rinse before we jump into the lake.
  • It is tempting to perform dishwashing chores in the lake. We think that the few food particles will be eaten by fish and there will be no harm done. This is definitely not the case. Adding food and other nutrients to lake water upsets the natural balance of the water and can result in the growth of algae. This algae uses a disproportionately high amount of oxygen which should be available to fish and other aquatic creatures. In severe cases, a fish population can be wiped out. We should clean our dishes in a dishpan well away from the water. Food remnants should be taken out of the water and put in with our garbage so that they do not attract animals. The remaining dishwater should be dumped well back from the shoreline.

On Water ...

To stick your hands into the river is to feel the cords that bind the earth together in one piece.

Barry Lopes



If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water."

Loren Isley

All the water that has been or ever will be is here now.  It sits, it runs, it rises as mist.  It evaporates and falls again as rain or snow... you cannot pollute a drop of water anywhere without eventually poisoning some distant place.

Michael Furtman