Leave No Trace Along the Truckee River

Our staff recently attended a Leave No Trace training with Erin and Brice of the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers program. It was so informative we thought we should share what we learned and how it applies to the Truckee River!

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has long been associated with teaching people how to enjoy backpacking and wilderness adventure while minimizing environmental impacts, but at the training we learned you should be using these outdoor ethics principles every time you step outside. From your backyard, to your favorite hiking trail, to your favorite local park along the Truckee River, you can always practice the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

So without any further ado, we present the Leave No Trace Seven Principles and how they relate to the Truckee River.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Part of the National Park Service’s ten essentials.

Always be prepared! Check the weather forecast, dress appropriately, bring extra layers, and don’t forget sunscreen. This is particularly important in the high desert of the Great Basin where daily temperatures can fluctuate greatly and weather can change at a moment’s notice. It’s also important to bring enough food and water. Even if that just means researching food and drink options along The Riverwalk District, it’s super important to know you’ve got food and water covered before you head out. And being prepared also includes your pets! Always remember to bring a leash and enough pet waste bags!

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Always stick to designated trails and only camp in designated campsites. This helps minimize impacts to plants and animals in the riparian zone. Public access to the Truckee River is important, and to preserve this privilege we need to respect private property rights and local regulations. City ordinances in Reno and Sparks prohibit camping along the Truckee River, though that law is subject to the Ninth Circuit Case Law, Jones vs. City of Los Angeles.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Pack it in, pack it out! Trash and litter are harmful and unsightly wherever you go. If public trash cans aren’t available or are full, be prepared to carry your trash home. And no matter where you dispose of your trash, make sure the lid is properly secured. It’s windy here, and trash can blow away if you don’t put a lid on it.

It’s also very important to properly dispose of your pet’s waste. Escherichia coli (E. coli) from pet waste can contaminate waterways. Even if you’re not walking your dog near the Truckee River, pet waste can still eventually end up there because the local storm drain system flows to the Truckee River. Making sure you properly dispose of pet waste is essential to minimizing your impact on the river.

Leave What You Find

It may be tempting to pick pretty flowers or add another rock to your collection, but please remember to treat plants and natural features with respect. The pollen from the flower you pick could be an essential food source for a native bee species, and the rock you added to your collection could be home to a caddisfly larvae, an important aquatic insect that feeds the many fish species living in the Truckee River.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Even if you’re just barbecuing in the park or enjoying the fire pit in your backyard, it’s always important to be cautious with fire. Wildfires can have expansive and long-lasting effects on watersheds, and the Truckee River watershed is no exception. Damage from the 1994 Crystal Peak Fire in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near Verdi is still visible today as you drive past on I-80. While significant efforts are often undertaken to re-vegetate and stabilize soils, initial loss of vegetation from wildfires still leads to erosion and large amounts of sediment flowing into waterways. With many devastating fires throughout the western states in the past few years (Mendocino Complex, Camp Fire, Ferguson Fire, Martin Fire, and Carr Fire just to name a few), wildfires have become an issue of major concern. There are many ways you can help protect the watershed from wildfire impacts. For a quick overview, visit the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District website. It has great tips for creating defensible space around your home and how to properly dispose of ashes from campfires, backyard fire pits, and wood stoves.

Respect Wildlife

Keep wildlife wild. This is important in the Truckee Meadows because the region is an ecotone between the forests of the Sierra and the high desert of the Great Basin. This transition zone includes many unique habitats, from alpine meadows to sagebrush steppe, and is home to many animals. Some of the common critters you may encounter in urban and suburban areas are squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, mule deer, and snakes. And with increased development in the foothills, encounters with black bears and mountain lions are also possible.

Living with wildlife and treating them with respect can be achieved with a few simple practices. First off, never feed wildlife and make sure your trash is secured. It’s also a good idea to properly store pet food and maybe think twice about putting out bird seed or hummingbird feeders or installing koi ponds (these attract both desired and undesired wildlife). Secondly, it’s always best to keep your distance and leave wildlife alone. Most conflicts between wildlife and humans occur when people get too close. It’s always best to admire from a safe and respectful distance. For more tips, check out the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s best practices for living with wildlife.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Flickr photo courtesy Ken Lund

Part of enjoying the outdoors is being respectful of others by ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy. As the old saying goes, what comes around, goes around. If you treat others with respect, they’re more likely to do the same for you. This ethic seems very apt for the “Biggest Little City in the World,” where we have a unique small town feel that we’ve maintained even with recent growth and while hosting a world-class tourism industry. Whether it’s a friendly wave to a passing hiker, helping direct a tourist, or turning down your music in the park, all these small gestures can help you become a Truckee River Champion who not only loves the river but also shares that love with others.

So there you have it – The Leave No Trace Seven Principles. We hope they will help guide you so that you may fully enjoy the beauty of the Truckee River and its surrounding watershed while minimizing your impacts. And if you want to learn more, you can attend a Leave No Trace training coming up at REI on March 6.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles have been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org