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How to Enjoy Local Bodies of Water in an Enviromentally-Friendly Way

 Posted on: August 8th, 2023

Father and son enjoying a day on the lake

As a human being, your relationship with nature is fundamental to overall health and happiness. Although many may have anecdotal instances that showcase this irrefutable fact, extensive research compiled by the American Psychological Association has unveiled why exactly we may feel good when surrounded by nature. This includes benefits such as:

  • Reduced stress levels;
  • Improved mood;
  • Enhanced cognitive function;
  • Increased physical activity.

Local bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and ponds may offer a variety of benefits. They’re sources of life and leisure, offering the opportunity to swim, fish, kayak, or appreciate the serenity they provide.

Though you enjoy these benefits, your actions significantly impact the health of these water bodies. Preserving these delicate ecosystems is not just an environmental responsibility — it's crucial for continuing the benefits they provide and the many forms of life they sustain.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Disposing of waste properly is fundamental to preservation. Not only is litter unsightly, but it also poses significant threats.

Here are tips on how to avoid littering:

  • Bring a bag for trash and recyclables.
  • Pack out everything you pack in.
  • Never leave trash behind — even if it's biodegradable.
  • Take used fishing line with you, and dispose of it in special collection bins to avoid harming local wildlife.
  • Avoid introducing non-native species into the environment by not dumping unused bait into the water.

Overall, adopting Leave No Trace practices is key.

Avoid Disturbing Local Ecosystems

Maintaining the health and vitality of local water bodies necessitates conscientious interactions with the surrounding ecosystem. This means you must avoid harming local plants and animals, which are vital to the ecological balance. A few other things to be mindful of include:

  • Avoid disturbing wildlife;
  • Avoid trampling on vegetation;
  • Don't introduce non-native species into the environment;
  • Encourage others to follow the same ethical outdoor practices.

One significant way to reduce your environmental impact while traveling is by reducing emissions. For those who use vehicles like motorcycles or jet skis for their outdoor excursions, using carriers to transport these vehicles instead of driving them separately can considerably reduce carbon emissions. This practice is good for the environment and keeps your vehicle in good shape during transportation.

Likewise, plan your routes to minimize driving distances and consolidate your trips whenever possible. This will help reduce fuel consumption and emissions while decreasing costs.

Operate Watercraft Responsibly

As recreational activities involving watercraft have increased, so has the potential for disturbing wildlife, damaging vegetation, and contributing to water and noise pollution.

Here are a few basic considerations to minimize these impacts:

  1. Maintain a safe speed at all times. High speeds can cause excessive wake, eroding shorelines, disrupting nesting birds, and harming underwater vegetation.
  2. Follow the "right-of-way" rules to prevent collisions when crossing paths with another craft. Also, always pass at a safe distance and speed, and avoid swimming areas.
  3. Don't drive through shallow waters, marshes, or areas with dense vegetation. These are often nurseries for fish and wildlife habitats.

Following correct docking procedures is equally critical, as this helps reduce damage to the shoreline, aquatic plants, and bottom-dwelling organisms — as well as damage to your vessel.

Ensure that the docking system you use is suitable for your vessel. The wrong dock can cause damage to your boat, the dock itself, and potentially the surrounding habitat. When choosing a dock for your boat, consider factors such as the type and size of your boat, the water depth, and wave action.

Schedule Your Trip During The Off-Season

Traveling during the off-season offers a unique opportunity to experience local bodies of water without the usual crowd. Not only does this often lead to a more peaceful and personal encounter with nature, but it also brings with it several environmental benefits:

Popular water destinations can experience significant environmental stress during peak seasons due to high visitor numbers. By visiting during the off-season, you help to distribute human impact more evenly throughout the year.

Less traffic on the road means less time idling in your vehicle, reducing carbon emissions.

Animals can be more susceptible to human activities during certain times of the year, such as breeding and nesting seasons. By visiting during the off-season, you can help to minimize disturbances to wildlife during these critical periods.

During peak season, there can be a high demand for resources like water and energy due to the influx of recreationists. By choosing to travel during the off-season, you contribute to a more balanced use of these local resources throughout the year.

With this, practice responsible behaviors like picking up after yourself, respecting local wildlife, and adhering to the area's rules and regulations.

Plan Your Canoeing and Kayaking Routes Around Local Wildlife

Planning your canoeing and kayaking routes with local ecosystems in mind protects the environments you love to explore.

Consider the following tips:

  • Stick to designated trails when paddling. These paths are designed to minimize human impact on sensitive areas and avoid disturbing wildlife habitats. Paddling off designated trails can lead to the destruction of aquatic plants and disturb local wildlife.
  • Use designated launching and landing spots for your canoe or kayak. These sites are carefully selected to minimize erosion and the trampling of vegetation. Avoid launching boats off fragile banks, which can be destabilizing.
  • Paddle quietly and avoid getting too close to wildlife, which can stress animals and disrupt their natural behavior.

Through careful planning and mindful behavior, canoeing and kayaking can be enjoyed without harmful impacts.

Comply With Local Fishing Regulations

While fishing is a cherished pastime for many, our fishing activities can significantly impact local ecosystems — both positively and negatively. So it's crucial to follow local regulations and best practices that allow future generations to continue enjoying this activity:

  • Fishing licenses: A fishing license is often required to fish in public lakes. This helps manage and protect fish populations by controlling the number of people who can fish. The revenue generated contributes to conservation efforts, including habitat restoration, fish stocking, and education initiatives.
  • Bag limits: Bag limits, or the maximum number of fish you can keep in a day, help prevent overfishing and ensure fair distribution among anglers.
  • Size restrictions: Certain regulations specify what size fish you can keep. These often protect young fish and ensure they reach breeding age to reproduce and replenish the population. There may also be a maximum size limit to protect larger, mature fish that contribute significantly to the breeding population.
  • Legal fishing hours: These regulations specify when fishing is permitted. Certain times are designated to reduce stress on fish populations and to limit disruptions to their natural behaviors.

Abiding by these regulations and practicing ethical fishing behaviors, such as catch and release, can contribute significantly to preserving fish populations and their habitats.

Choose Eco-friendly Equipment

Opting for eco-friendly equipment minimizes your environmental footprint and often supports companies that value sustainability. For example, consider using surf or paddle boards made from natural or recycled materials. Several companies are now producing boards using sustainable materials. Not only do these eco-friendly alternatives reduce your carbon footprint, but they also often provide unique aesthetics and performance attributes.

By making these choices, you can contribute to maintaining the diverse ecosystems that make local bodies of water such special places.