Photo by Kevin Rose.

Trail Ethics

Minimize your impact on the water and land to ensure that Lake Champlain and the Trail remain beautiful and available for others to use. Follow the guidelines below but remember that, in all cases, safety is paramount.

Launch Sites

State and municipal boat launches and Fish and Wildlife Access Areas are available for paddler use but please be considerate of other users. Avoid blocking the launch and look for areas designated specifically for "carry-in" or "car-toppable" boats. Have your gear ready for quick loading and unloading at launch ramps. Note that anglers, those using motor boats, and people hunting and fishing have a higher priority at Fish and Wildlife Access Areas than those using non-motorized craft. This is because money generated by fishing license sales and state motorboat registration fees as well as a federal excise tax on fishing tackle and marine fuel helps to pay for access area development, maintenance and improvements. We encourage paddlers to buy a fishing license to help support the maintenance of Fish and Wildlife Access Areas.

Respect Private Property

Please respect private property and those sites not open to the public. View and enjoy them from the water. Private landowners can also be part of our support network, so please respect their rights and do not trespass. Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail sites are marked with our Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail signs. If you're not sure if a site is public or private, err on the side of caution and assume it is private.

When You Arrive at a Trail Site

Camp only at designated areas. Photo by Jessica Rossi.

Sign In
Upon arrival, sign in at the registry box or with the ranger for all Trail locations that have them.

Stay on Established Trails
Tread softly and carefully! Shoreline and island soils are often shallow, easily erodible and quickly compacted. Once an inch of soil is lost to compaction it can take centuries to replace. Avoid scrambling over dirt banks and shrubby ledges. Walk single file in the middle of trails, even if they are wet and muddy to prevent developing multiple routes. Do not walk in boggy areas, or on low woody vegetation, mosses and lichens. They can be easily damaged and rarely recover from trampling.

Camp in Designated Areas
Camp only at established sites. Do not expand sites or clear new ones. Vegetation is intrinsic to healthy soil; it anchors it and prevents erosion. Keep campsites small and focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent, concentrating your use in the center to avoid enlarging an area. Store gear and cook on rocks, sand or gravel. Never clear sites of organic matter like pine needles or leaves as they help cushion soil from trampling. Do not cut or clear vegetation, trees, or branches, dead or alive, for any purpose.

Group Size & Length of Stay
Keep group size small and your visits short. Six people or fewer are best. Limit your stay to two nights.

Tent Sprawl
Follow reservation protocols at sites that require them. The best way to avoid tent sprawl is to plan ahead. If you are making plans for a busy summer weekend, select an area where there are plenty of campsites and nearby mainland accommodations. If you find all established sites at your destination are taken, do not create a new spot for yourself. Move to another Trail location or head to a mainland bed & breakfast or campground if you can do so safely. Remember, in New York, camping within 150 feet of the lake (or any river or stream) is only permitted at designated sites. Help disperse usage but be prepared to share a site in good humor.

Leave and Protect What You Find
Observe but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. Do not build structures, furniture or trenches. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. Invasive species frequently move from one waterbody to another attached to boats. Before leaving or entering Lake Champlain remove mud and plant material stuck to your boat and dispose of them on dry land.

Waste Disposal, Pack it in/Pack it out!

A composting outhouse built by LCC and volunteers. Photo by Lori Fisher.

Trash and Garbage
Bring heavyweight garbage bags on all your trips for safe, appropriate disposal of trash on the mainland. This is obvious for all primitive campsites on the Trail but also applies to other sites. Carry out all trash, litter and leftover food.

When preparing for your trip, remove unnecessary and excess packaging and leave it at home. Plan meals to avoid generating messy, smelly garbage. Bring resealable plastic containers to store leftover food from meals.

Human Waste
Some Trail locations have toilets or composting outhouses; many do not. Pack out solid human waste, toilet paper and hygiene products for disposal in an appropriate receptacle on the mainland or when you arrive at an area with a flush toilet. Burying waste is not appropriate as the island and shoreland soils are generally shallow and easily eroded. Recommended containers for human waste include:

  • Waterproof resealable canister with a garbage bag liner and some sawdust or kitty litter;
  • Double ziplock plastic bags or milk carton with kitty litter or sawdust placed in a resealable container

You'll find composting outhouses built by LCC at Five Mile Point, Law Island, Burton Island South, Knight Island and Woods Island. The composting breaks down human waste over time using soil microorganisms and aerobic decomposition. Do not put trash or other garbage in outhouses or pit privies. They are for human waste only.

Fires

There is a "no fire" policy for all Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail sites except those where firewood is available for purchase and use in permanent, state-established fireplaces. This policy has been formally adopted by the Lake Champlain Committee because it is most protective of the unique and fragile habitats that constitute the more primitive portions of the Trail. On islands in particular, fires have a high risk of spreading due to changeable winds, interconnected root systems, organic soils, and lack of services. Although campfires are officially permitted at some of the publicly owned camping areas in the Trail system, they are not in keeping with the low-impact spirit of the Trail. Campfires have led to the removal of downed wood, cutting of trees, stripping of birch bark, proliferation of fire rings, and blackening of rocks and shorelines. Please bring a lightweight camp stove for cooking and a candle or lantern for light and refrain from building fires. If you make a campfire, only do so in established, authorized fireplaces. Keep fires small, using only small pieces of wood bought on site. Do not cut any tree limbs, strip bark, collect downed wood or burn garbage or refuse. Burn all wood to a fine ash and thoroughly extinguish with water before going to bed or leaving your campsite. Keep a bucket of water nearby and never leave a fire unattended.

Washing

Carry bath and dishwater at least 100 steps away from any water source and use little or no soap when washing yourself or your dishes. If you use soap, make sure it's biodegradable and phosphorus-free. Strain and pack out food particles. Scatter dishwater and toothbrush liquids.

Wildlife

Photo by Jay Kiley.

Observe wildlife from a distance. Travel quietly and don't make quick movements. If your behavior causes wildlife to alter theirs, you're too close! Do not follow, approach or feed animals. Feeding them damages their health, changes natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators. Protect your supplies by storing food and trash securely.

Pets

Consider leaving pets at home. Their presence can be stressful to wildlife. If you bring your pet, note they are only allowed at some Trail locations. Site specific policies about pets are provided in each Trail site description. Where pets are allowed they must be leashed at all times and proof of current rabies vaccination is required. Clean up after your pets and make sure they don't foul water sources. Dog feces should be treated like human waste and placed in composting outhouses or flush toilets or packed out.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The waters, docks, launch ramps and Trail locations are shared resources. Respect other visitors and their experience. Preserve the aesthetics of a place by minimizing your visual impact. Pull boats out of sight onto durable surfaces and pitch tents inconspicuously in established campsites. Make sure clothing and gear is not strewn all over. Move and talk quietly. Let nature's sites and sounds be seen and heard!

When You Leave

Before moving on, restore your camp or picnic site to its original state. If paths have been inadvertently created through fragile vegetation, consider blocking or hiding their entrance with nearby downed logs or brush.

AIS Transport

To avoid transporting aquatic invasive species, clean, drain and dry your boat and equipment. Clean any visible mud, plants, fish, or other animals before transporting equipment. Drain water from the hatches, cockpits, boards and gear on land before leaving the immediate area. Dry your boat and gear with a sponge or old towel before driving away from the landing point.