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How to 'leave no trace' while camping and experiencing the Smokies

Camping is a great pastime and a great way to connect with nature. Learn how you can leave little to no impact upon leaving your wildlife visit.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Thousands of people visit the Smoky Mountains every year. There are endless trails to embark on and enough rivers and streams to fish and swim for days at a time.

However, only 65 thousand people worldwide are educated on the ethics of wildlife conservation.

These ethics and guidelines specify the proper conduct and behavior that should be implemented when enjoying the great outdoors.

Without this knowledge, campers and park visitors are at risk of harming or negatively impacting the environment around them, possibly leaving it in a worse condition than before they arrived.

The goal is to enjoy a nature visit and leave, without hardly impacting the occupied area at all.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics provides an educational enrichment program that steers toward informing and engaging citizens on the importance of wildlife responsibility. 

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This past week a group of volunteers participated in the program and engaged in safe and effective wildlife practice.

Credit: Jayne Young
A pair of volunteers enjoy the outdoors and a few burgers.

If more people are educated on the dos and don'ts of wildlife engagement, we can preserve our Smokies and keep them a beautiful haven for generations to come.

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These are a few tips from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

  • Abide by all regulations. Regulations are designed to protect the resources of this park for you and for future generations.
Credit: Jayne Young
A camp site located in the Smoky Mountains
  • Choose not to cook over a fire, it is difficult to avoid getting food in the fire ring. Never burn trash and food scraps. Doing so disseminates the food smell and attracts bears. Residues from food and trash will not burn completely and linger long after you are gone creating problems for other campers.
  • Camp in areas that have already been impacted by use.
  • Keep your group small to maintain an atmosphere that is appropriate for the backcountry. Large groups tend to attain a level of social interaction and noise that is not congruent with backcountry ethics or values.
  • Never cut switchbacks. This is a destructive practice that creates erosion and worsens trail conditions.
  • Pack out whatever you pack in. Never leave any food, trash, personal items or equipment.
  • Do not bury any trash, including organic items.
  • Dispose of human waste properly.
  • Dig a "cathole" at least six inches deep.
  • Deposit human waste in the hole, throw in a small handful of leaves or duff and cover the hole.
  • Keep at least 100 feet away from camp, trails or any water source.
  • Never go behind a shelter or near a spring, as this creates unhealthful conditions and may results in closures of campsites or shelters.
  • Sanitary pads and tampons must be packed out of the backcountry.
  • Never deposit any trash including wipes, sanitary pads or tampons in backcountry privies.
  •  These items interfere with the composting process which makes the privy smell very bad. Ultimately these items must be dug out of the privy by hand.
  • So do the right thing and pack these items out!

For more information on the principles of Leave No Trace, visit www.int.org.