Water quality is no doubt excellent, but not always pristine as I used to think. A winter rehash of some AOD posts, some from 2007, struck me as thoughtful comments by experienced rafters – sometimes humorous, a little ranting, but mostly concerns and good ideas about the impact of access/use on popular rivers. Most posts were about waste removal, but a broader message was for Alaskans to begin pondering and discussing what’s happening now, where we’re headed and who will determine culture/policy to protect public use rivers for those that follow.
1. First, from Lower-48 streams, some advice from guides:
-“Pack plenty of water. Because the water on our wild rivers is no longer drinkable…” (from p.32: The Guide’s Guide Augmented: Reflections on Guiding Professional River Trips by William McGinnis, 2005)
-“The regulation prohibiting camping within 200 feet of water and trails also has to do with aesthetics and consideration for others” (from p.114: NOLS Wilderness Guide, by Mark Harvey, 1999).
2. Next, from AOD posts about a popular road system river, the Upper Gulkana, which, for all the traffic it gets, is still in wonderful shape. Still, here are some good glimpses of problems described on one stretch of Alaska water:
-Some people think if there is a fire ring it should be used as a dump site for everything from batteries to glass… I can tolerate my dog rolling on a dead salmon carcass but human waste and TP is most disgusting. I will never understand that mentality.
-I'm in favor of common sense and some regulations but do not want to see this go to a controlled river…I guess those of us who care about our wilderness will continue to clean up after those who abuse it. Kinda like spring clean-up day in Fairbanks, where so many pick up after so few.
-We ran in to the same mess you did at the campsites, so this year we'll be taking a rocket box and hauling out all our waste. Something has to happen to get the human waste problem under control - even two years ago it was disgusting…we end up taking out more garbage from the campsites that we take in.
-Thank all of you who take the time to care and pack out what others have left behind.
-The flood last year must have really flushed out a lot of the human "debris" and camp trash because even though there were lots potty piles, it was nothing like we saw two years ago. We took a "groover" with us (party of 7) which worked very well.
-We were passed... by 3 guys on a cat... had a couple of guns... shooting just for the fun of it right around the corner upstream from our camp…They also bragged about catching a king which I believe is illegal that far up the river (about 5 miles below the lake)... the only bad part of an otherwise good trip.
-Great to see that most people using the river this past 4 days had some form of portable toilet system!
-Anyone doing this river please pick up your trash and use a groover (or at least follow the BLM rules for human waste disposal)! And enjoy the trip - it's a beautiful river.
3. Think it’s not happening on remote streams? AOD Posts about growing problems on remote Alaska rivers, from: http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...ad.php?t=49613
-does seem to be a growing issue...Especially more visited rivers. The Alagnak comes to mind.
-Reading about the probs and management along the Gulkana R strikes me as a model for things we could see elsewhere. We're a long way from use permits and other restrictions, but for situational awareness and education there's no time like the present - and an informed proactive AK fishing/hunting/floating culture would be better positioned to manage.
-However, I'd be hard pressed on a fly-out trip to substitute this for a case of beer if it came down to a weight choice. Butt, it's sure nice having a seat and greatly appreciated by the ladys.
-This turd post has turned fruitful. Great ideas guys. With some rivers in Alaska being overused and with so many of the rivers going by native villages that use the water, a more dilligent approach to waste removal is needed... As we continue to use these rivers, I feel this will become mandatory float trip equipment for all of us in the near future. That is already the case on some rivers with the "carry it out" rule. None of us want to pull up on a gravel bar and see catholes all over the place. Surely, there is a better way to do things. Keep the ideas coming.
-...I agree with all of you that although it's not mandatory yet, it's a good practice anyway and there are lots of products out there that make it easy.
-Please note that most of the plastic bag type groovers are not legal on mandatory waste removal rivers in the lower 48,.. the same thing might eventualy apply in AK.
-Sad, ultimately the issue is lazyness. If people would carry a trenching tool and hike 100yds from the river then bury their pile all would be well. It seems more reasonable to make a no poo corridor and mandatory burial rather than make people haul out the additional "load".
-but even buried 100 yards doesn't work with a high traffic area
-From a Public Health/Sanitation perspective, pit toilets can be safely established following simple guidelines. It's not as simple in the wild, where animals might dig up waste... but some guidelines would be better than no guidelines...
-Backcountry Sanitation in Denali National Park -Neither pit nor chemical toilets are available in the Denali National Park backcountry. You must be prepared for proper waste disposal:
• Dig a hole at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) deep for fecal waste.
• Such holes must be dug at least 200 feet (60 meters) away from water.
• Pack out all toilet paper and sanitation products. Some veteran campers in Alaska burn their toilet paper, but campfires aren’t permitted in Denali National Park.
-I'd hate to have the job of selling the idea of no TP to Alaska outdoorsfolk, but it does give an idea what it takes to maintain pristine conditions in areas pressured by population/use.
-I spoke to a ranger involved with the Kisaralik (I can't remember for sure if it was the Kisaralik or another river) just a few weeks ago. The guy was working out of the office in Dillingham and he said that there are currently regulations in place requiring folks to pack out human waste out there. It seems that lots of folks are pooping near the river and downstream samples are starting to show contamination. He even said people have been carrying water out there too. I guess it's a glimpse of the future for us, whether we want it or not. I hate to see this happening to our rivers...
-I have heard rumors of proposals for the same regulations on the Kongakut. If we want a pristine wilderness experience, and several hundred/thousand all want the same experience, we have to put up with the regulations that keep the place pristine. Just think of what the bottom of Grand Canyon would look like if the 20,000 annual boaters all pooped in cat holes. Packing it out is the only reasonable alternative, I suppose. Alaska's time will come. Perhaps sooner than I like to think.
Water quality, regulations, the cost of remote access making it tougher to get further away...what to do? Probs and management along the Gulkana River could be a model for our future. We're a long way (maybe not?) from use permits and other restrictions on most streams, but for situational awareness and education there's no time like the present. Who better to decide than an informed, proactive Alaska fishing/hunting/floating/boating culture? Da future is us.
Oh, one more - from brav01: "Just reading this thread has pooped me out. "Gotta' go" ! "