Soil Info | Leave
No Trace Principles
year, millions of visitors enjoy Canyon Country. The
impact of so much use is threatening the area's biological
and cultural resources. You can help protect this fragile
and beautiful land by following these five minimum impact
Tread lightly when traveling and leave no trace
of your camping. Drive and ride only on roads and trails
where such travel is allowed; hike only on established
trails, on rock, or in washes. Camp at designated sites
or, where allowed, at previously-used sites. Avoid placing
tents on top of vegetation and use a camp stove instead
of making a campfire. Unless signs indicate otherwise,
leave gates open or closed as you find them.Why it matters:
Much of this area is a desert where plants are sparse
and grow very slowly. Shallow soils erode quickly when
vegetation is removed or protective cryptobiotic soil
crusts are destroyed. These crusts are a complex of
slowly-growing cyanobacteria, algae, mosses and lichens
that bind the soil together, retain scarce water, and
provide a usable source of nitrogen for desert plants.
Your tracks do matter, once plants or soil crust are
damaged, they may not recover in your lifetime. Wood
is a scarce resource that provides wildlife habitat
and contributes to nutrient cycling. Gates help protect
Soil - Please keep Off!
to help: Strive to leave no trace of your outing. When
driving, riding, and hiking avoid taking shortcuts and
travelling through cryptobiotic soils. Don't be a trail
or campsite "pioneer" who leaves a new path
or campsite for others to use. Select an area of bare
soil for your tent. Use a camp stove rather than burning
firewood. If you must have a fire, use a fire pan and
bring your own wood. Never cut live or standing trees.
Here's more info on Cryptobiotic Soil
to read >>>.
Help keep Canyon Country clean. Pack out your
trash and recycle it, clean up after less thoughtful
visitors, and dispose of human waste properly.Why it
matters: Trash, human waste and toilet paper are significant
problems that can quickly become health hazards and
eyesores. Food scraps and garbage can turn wildlife
into problem animals. No one wants to walk or camp where
someone has left trash and human waste.
to help:Make it a point to clean up campsites
and day use areas during your visit. Take out all trash,
including toilet paper and food scraps, and dispose
of it properly through recycling centers and landfills.
In some areas, campers must use developed campgrounds
or utilize portable toilets at designated undeveloped
sites. Where special rules don't apply, bury solid human
waste in the upper few inches of soil.
Protect and conserve scarce desert water resources.
Camp at least 300 feet from isolated water sources to
allow for wildlife access. Where possible, carry your
own drinking water. Leave potholes undisturbed and wash
well away from pools and springs. Why it matters: Many
desert animals, especially birds, depend on the plants
around isolated water resources for food and habitat.
Camping near water sources damages plants and prevents
wildlife from approaching. Small quantities of pollutants
can make springs and ponds unusable for wildlife. Body
lotions and vehicle lubricants can remain in the water
and harm aquatic life, which in egg or larval form may
be invisible to the naked eye.
to help: Camp at least 300 feet from water
sources to allow wildlife access. Where feasible, carry
all the water you will need for drinking and personal
hygiene. Bathe and wash dishes away from desert water
sources. Cool off in the shade, not in springs and potholes.
Avoid driving or riding through desert water sources.
Allow space for wildlife. When encountering
wildlife, maintain your distance and remain quiet. Teach
children not to chase or pick up animals. Keep pets
under control.Why it matters: Canyon Country has great
wildlife viewing opportunities, including desert bighorn
sheep, deer, elk, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, river
otter and a variety of small creatures. Harassing or
approaching wild animals will cause them to flee, possibly
causing injury and definitely using up the vital energy
reserves they need for mating, raising young, winter
survival and other activities.
to help: Watch animals from a distance. Where
pets are allowed, keep them leashed and under control.
Keep quiet in the back country; you will see more animals
and not frighten them.
Leave historic sites, Native American rock art, ruins
and artifacts untouched for the future. Admire
rock art from a distance and never touch it. Stay out
of ruins, leave artifacts in place, and report violations.
Why it matters; Canyon Country has an abundance of archaeological
and historic sites, including rock art, historic inscriptions,
old mines, cowboy camps, and Indian cliff dwellings.
The people who created this legacy are gone. Now, the
physical remains of their occupation are disappearing
at an alarming rate. Small actions can add up to major
damage. Rock art can be damaged just by touching it.
The oil from fingertips speeds erosion by chemically
altering ancient painted pigments and the rock itself.
Sitting or climbing on rock walls turns ruins into rubble.
Walking across middens, the ancient trash heaps below
ruins can damage sites. Moving or taking artifacts destroys
their scientific value.
to help; Leave all sites and artifacts undisturbed.
Remember not to touch rock art or make marks on canyon
walls. Leave artifacts in place and stay out of ruins
to avoid damaging them. When approaching a cultural
site, avoid walking on soft soils to reduce the possibility
of erosion. Report vandalism to the nearest local authorities.
Rules. In some areas, visitors must follow
special rules designed to protect natural and cultural
resource values. Ask at agency offices and visitor centers
if any special rules apply to the area you plan to visit.
above document is an excerpt of:
BLM/UT/GI-95/002+BOOO - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
- BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Soils - Stick To Established Trails
Biological soil crust is a living groundcover that
forms the foundation
of high desert plant life in Canyonlands, Moab and the
surrounding area. This knobby, black crust is dominated
by cyanobacteria, but also includes lichens, mosses,
green algae, microfungi and bacteria.
previously called blue-green algae, are one of the oldest
known life forms. It is thought that these organisms
were among the first land colonizers of the earth's
early land masses, and played an integral role in the
formation and stabilization of the earth's early soils.
Extremely thick mats of these organisms converted the
earth's original carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into
one rich in oxygen and capable of sustaining life.
wet, Cyanobacteria move through the soil and bind rock
or soil particles, forming an intricate web of fibers.
In this way, loose soil particles are joined together,
and an otherwise unstable surface becomes very resistant
to both wind and water erosion. The soil-binding action
is not dependent on the presence of living filaments.
Layers of abandoned sheaths, built up over long periods
of time, can still be found clinging tenaciously to
soil particles, providing cohesion and stability in
sandy soils at depths up to 10cm.
fixation is another significant capability of cyanobacteria.
Vascular plants are unable to utilize nitrogen as it
occurs in the atmosphere. Cyanobacteria are able to
convert atmospheric nitrogen to a form plants can use.
This is especially important in desert ecosystems, where
nitrogen levels are low and often limiting to plant
crusts have other functions as well, including an ability
to intercept and store water, nutrients and organic
matter that might otherwise be unavailable to plants.
many human activities negatively affect the presence
and health of soil crusts. Compressional stresses placed
on them by footprints or machinery are extremely harmful,
especially when the crusts are dry and brittle. Tracks
in continuous strips, such as those produced by vehicles
or bicycles, create areas that are highly vulnerable
to wind and water erosion. Rainfall carries away loose
material, often creating channels along these tracks,
especially on slopes.
areas may never fully recover. Under the best circumstances,
a thin veneer of cryptobiotic soil may return in five
to seven years. Damage done to the sheath material,
and the accompanying loss of soil nutrients, is repaired
slowly during up to 50 years of cyanobacterial growth.
Lichens and mosses may take even longer to recover.
these fragile crusts is simple. Always drive or ride
on designated roads. Respect road closures and search
for places wide enough to pass other vehicles rather
than driving over roadside vegetation. When hiking,
always walk on marked trails, or on other durable surfaces
such as rock or in sandy washes.
No Trace Principles
principles are taken from the Leave No Trace website
Plan Ahead and Prepare
• Know the regulations and special concerns for
the area you'll visit.
• Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
• Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
• Visit in small groups. Split larger parties
into groups of 4-6.
• Repackage food to minimize waste.
• Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of
marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
• Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
• Durable surfaces include established trails
and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
• Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200
feet from lakes and streams.
• Good campsites are found, not made. Altering
a site is not necessary.
• In popular areas:
-- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
-- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even
when wet or muddy.
-- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where
vegetation is absent.
• In pristine areas:
-- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites
-- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
-- Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest
areas for trash or spilled foods.
• Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
• Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6
to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp,
and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
• Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
• To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water
200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts
of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
• Leave What You Find
• Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch,
cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
• Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects
as you find them.
• Avoid introducing or transporting non-native
• Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
• Minimize Campfire Impacts
• Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry.
Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle
lantern for light.
• Where fires are permitted, use established fire
rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
• Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground
that can be broken by hand.
• Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires
completely, then scatter cool ashes.
• Respect Wildlife
• Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow
or approach them.
• Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages
their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes
them to predators and other dangers.
• Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations
and trash securely.
• Control pets at all times, or leave them at
• Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating,
nesting, raising young, or winter.
• Be Considerate of Other Visitors
• Respect other visitors and protect the quality
of their experience.
• Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
• Step to the downhill side of the trail when
encountering pack stock.
• Take breaks and camp away from trails and other
• Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices
Please contact us if you
have any information to share about Environmental Stewardship
of the Moab area. If you can add any content or suggestions
please forward them to us.