Best Environmental Practices

Best Environmental Practices on Yukon Rivers

When travelling on Yukon’s rivers there are two main areas of concern:

  • Your impact on the environment (plants, animals, water, soil)
  • Your impact on other travellers (tourists, residents, First Nations people, trappers and fishers)

There are seven simple ways to minimize your impact.

For a quick reference to these practices, download this brochure (3MB PDF) (BEP English | BEP German | BEP Japanese) It shows in drawings the right and wrong ways of doing things. See if you can spot the following practices in the brochure.

1. Plan ahead and prepare

Leave as much garbage and food packaging as possible at home. The less garbage you take with you, the less garbage you will have to carry out!

  • Plan your menu in detail ahead of time
  • Purchase the quantities you need
  • Repack food and equipment to eliminate plastic wrap and cardboard boxes – these items just become garbage that you have to carry out of the wilderness
  • Plan ahead how you will store garbage and what toilet system you will use

2. Dispose of waste properly

It is illegal to leave garbage in the wilderness! Pack out all garbage and throw it away in town. Do not bury it or throw it in the river. Animals can smell buried garbage and are attracted to campsites where garbage has been left behind: this is very dangerous for the next person. If you burn anything, do it in a hot fire. When the fire is out, pick out any remaining garbage and take it with you.

  • Crush your garbage and put it in a bag, then seal it in a container (river barrel for example). Pack it out and properly dispose of it in town. Don't forget to recycle.
  • Soap, even biodegradable soap, harms fish! Wash your dishes and yourself far from lakes, rivers and streams (min. 70 meters/66 yards)
  • Pour waste water in sandy soil or gravel, not on plants, away from camp
  • Have your washing and toilet areas in places where other people will not put their tents

Encountering someone’s human waste in the wilderness is a bummer! Do your business where other people will not find it and where it will not leach into the water. Animals dig up buried toilet paper, so put it in your garbage or burn it in a hot fire at your campsite.

  • Keep toilet as far from the water and camp as possible (min. 70 meters/66 yards)
  • Dig a hole 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) deep
  • Bury human waste in hole
  • Put toilet paper in a bag. Pack out or burn it in your next fire

3. Minimize the impact of campfires

Campfires are one of the greatest joys of river travel, but they are also the biggest problem. Scars left from fires and cutting firewood last longer than  your lifetime. Do not use an axe or saw to hack down trees and bushes around your camp. It is most likely that you can find all the dead dry wood you need in sticks the size of your arm or smaller. Green, live trees don’t burn in a campfire, they just smoke.

It is illegal to leave a campfire burning when you leave your camp!Most forest fires in the Yukon are started by people. A match or cigarette dropped on the ground or an unattended or improperly doused campfire can easily start a forest fire.

  • Bring a stove for cooking
  • Use existing fire pits or a fire pan or firebox
  • Small campfires are safer and better for cooking
  • Make your fire on sand or gravel, below the high water mark
  • Use only small sticks that you find on the ground or “standing dead wood”
  • Use wood that is dead and dry
  • Burn your wood completely until it is ash
  • Before you leave your campsite, drench your fire with water until it is cold enough to hold in your hand!
  • Take all garbage out of the firepit and put in your garbage
  • Dispose ashes/coals in the river

4. Camp and walk on durable surfaces

The growing season is very short in the north. Vegetation that is trampled will die. Soil can easily become compacted then plants will no longer grow in it.

  • Put tents and kitchen on sand or gravel whenever possible
  • Avoid camping or building fires on plants
  • Use existing trails or avoid trampling vegetation

5.  Leave what you find

Structures along the river may belong to hunting and fishing camps or to First Nation peoples. The area may look abandoned, but the owner will be there later in another season. Please respect private property.

  • Enjoy wildflowers without picking them
  • Leave living trees and bushes standing
  • It is illegal to disturb or remove historical artifacts
  • Don’t build furniture

6. Be considerate of other people

Many other people use the same river you are travelling on: canoeist, rafters, boaters, hunters, trappers, fishers. Remember that music or partying that is too loud may bother other people.

  • Keep noise levels down
  • Leave a clean camp
  • Respect private property

7. Respect wildlife

Every animal species has its own ‘personal space’ requirements. It can be difficult to tell when an animal is becoming stressed by your presence – some simply stand still to appear less obvious. If an animal feels that you are a threat to itself, its young, or its food source, it may charge at you or attack. Too much stress can even interfere with an animal’s ability to reproduce, or cause it to be separated from or abandon its young. The more human stress an animal experiences, the less likely it is to stay ‘wild’. Small animals that become accustomed to people, like squirrels and whiskey jacks, become a nuisance around camp. Large animals, like bears and wolves, become very dangerous.

  • Use a spotting scope or binoculars to view animals from a safe distance (see wildlife viewing guide 4.8 MB PDF)
  • Photograph with a telephoto lens
  • Do not approach or feed any animal

Please travel thoughtfully and preserve Yukon’s wild rivers!