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Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada

Reducing Impacts

Nahanni National Park Reserve is known for its natural wilderness environment. Parks Canada's mandate is to ensure that the park is maintained as such.

When overnight visitors arrive at Nahanni National Park Reserve, they are greeted by park staff at Gahnihthah Mie (Rabbitkettle Lake) or Nailicho (Virginia Falls). During the in-park registration visitors and staff discuss safety, park regulations, and appropriate backcountry etiquette that should be used to reduce the environmental impacts of camping.

Impacts of campsite
Impacts of campsite
© Parks Canada / Marcel Cholo / 2004

Over the past few seasons, the park has been getting feedback from visitors and guides that some of the popular camping spots in the park are showing signs of visitor use. To ensure that the park's ecosystems are not degraded and that all visitors enjoy a world-class wilderness experience, Nahanni requires that visitors use fire-boxes, dispose of human waste properly, and leave no trace. The park closely monitors the impact of visitors on campsites and collects wildlife observations from campers.

Human Waste

At Nahanni, visitors are expected to manage their waste to leave no trace. Human waste should be buried in a shallow hole, well away from sources of water. Toilet paper should be packed out or burned. If you burn toilet paper on-site be sure that it is completely burned and be careful of surrounding vegetation. At popular camping areas, it may be better to have a communal latrine rather than many small holes.

Please use toilet facilities where they are provided: Nailicho (Virginia Falls), Tthetaehtluah (The Gate), Gahnihthah Mie (Rabbitkettle Lake) and Tuletsee (Kraus Hot Springs). Do not put food or garbage in any outhouse or solar composting toilet.

For more information on leave no trace camping and human waste disposal, click here .


Camping with a fire-box
Camping with a fire-box
© Parks Canada / Adele Laramee / 2000

An increasing number of river travellers have reported that encountering fire rings or fire-blackened rocks left behind by other travellers adds a negative note to their trips. As a result, Nahanni National Park Reserve has implemented a new regulation requiring that all fires be contained within a fire-box or fire-pan.

Not only does the use of a fire-box or fire-pan reduce the impact to the surrounding ground, rocks and vegetation, but it's its relatively compact size also encourages burning of less wood. Fire-boxes or fire-pans also allow visitors groups to easily burn their accumulated garbage. Combustible items can will be reduced to ash, and food odours can will be removed from cans by burning them on the top of the grate. After carefully removing foreign matter such as tin foil, cans or glass, it is environmentally acceptable to disperse the remaining ash into moving water. When a group that uses a fire - box or fire-pan moves on, there is no tell-tale sign of a fire-ring to indicate anyone was there and no trace of food to attract wildlife.

A fire-box is a portable unit weighing approximately three kg. It consists of a double floor, three short walls and a mesh metal top. When set up it measures approximately 30 cm x 60 cm x 20 cm. When collapsed for travel it fits into a heavy-duty fabric case. Its overall dimensions when packed are roughly 30 cm x 60 cm x 5 cm. The mesh metal top easily supports pots or frying pans.

The use of a fire-pan is increasingly common. Most often, the lid of a large metal garbage can is used as the container in which to build a fire. A fire-pan has the advantage of allowing a more traditional fire. While somewhat more awkward to pack in a canoe, a fire-pan is considerably lighter than a fire-box.

Fire-boxes can be rented in Fort Simpson from Deh Cho Hardware. Visitors not stopping in Fort Simpson may rent a fire-box directly from the park but supplies are limited.

Please use dead and downed wood only. Do not snap living or dead branches from trees. There is an abundance of dry driftwood along the banks of the Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River), and by collecting pieces smaller than your wrist, you can make a hot and small fire in your fire-box or fire-pan. Small fires burn completely to ash, and avoid large cut or half-burned logs lying around campsites after use.

Hint: it is a good idea to collect suitable driftwood between campsites and carry it in your boat – popular campsites may have reduced amounts of wood.

Campsite monitoring

Each year park staff travel the river and stop at areas used for overnight camping to assess the number of trails and tent pads in the area, the amount of unnatural bare ground, bank erosion and any evidence of fire scars, human waste or litter.

Areas that have significant impacts and/or damage undergo a detailed assessment.

Some sites may be closed for a number of seasons to allow for regeneration. When overnight visitors register at the park office they will be informed of campsite closures. Sites will be re-assessed each year, and once a site has recovered to its natural state it will be reopened.

Wildlife monitoring

Wildlife observations recorded by visitors and park staff as they travel through Nahanni are very important. A long with scientific research they provide a better understanding of habitat use patterns of park wildlife.

Occasionally, areas of high wildlife use are closed to visitors in an effort to minimize wildlife displacement and ensure the safety of campers. When overnight visitors register at the park office they will be informed of campsite closures.