Common menu bar links

Pukaskwa National Park of Canada

Minimum Impact Recreation

Guidelines for backcountry visitors in Pukaskwa National Park

Pukaskwa National Park protects a nationally significant area of Lake Superior shoreline and boreal forest. With no road access, the Lake Superior shoreline between Hattie Cove to Michipicoten is the least developed shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes. As interest in exploring this coastline continues to increase, we ask that you take steps to minimize your impacts on the ecosystem as you travel through the park. Wild spaces can survive as long as we strive to be stewards, not consumers, of wilderness areas.


  • Keep your group size small to minimize your impacts on the area. Pukaskwa National Park limits group size to eight persons or fewer.
  • Try soap-free camping. If soap is necessary, use biodegradable soaps for dishwashing and bathing. Wastewater, even from biodegradable soaps, needs to be filtered through soil for contaminants to break down.
  • Reduce garbage by planning meal quantities carefully and packing food in reusable containers. Reduce excess packaging from your gear and food. Avoid glass, cans, twist ties and rubber bands.
  • Bring a bug jacket and insect repellent, especially in June and July when biting insects are at their peak .
  • Pack a trowel or folding shovel.
  • Bring at least 50 feet of rope to hang your food in case a bear box is not available.
  • Consider leaving your pet at home. Dogs can be a threat to wildlife and frequently refuse to cross suspension bridges.


  • Resist the temptation to feed animals, no matter how cute, bold or curious they seem. Handouts may alter feeding habits. Feeding wildlife is illegal in a national park.
  • Give wild animals space. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses to observe and photograph wildlife. If an animal begins to flee, acts aggressively or defensively, or approaches you -- you are too close. Avoid disturbing important wildlife areas such as animal dens, bird nests, and noticeable feeding areas.
  • Tread carefully when exploring the park. Try to minimize impacts to vegetation, lichens, mosses, and soils by walking on exposed rocks and beaches, and staying on trails.
  • Leave all objects and living things where you find them, including plants, rocks, antlers, and cultural artifacts. Some artifacts and locations are sacred to native peoples and should be treated with respect.
  • Noise carries and can disturb. Please respect the right of others to privacy and quiet.


  • Where available, use the constructed tent pads, fire pits, bear boxes, trails, and outhouses. Do not build additional structures. Pitching your tent on a designated site will ensure you have a level, well-drained site.
  • If no developed campsites are available, choose a site on a sand beach. Camp in an open area, away from berry patches, animal trails and the sound of rushing water. If possible, avoid sites having evidence of bears.
  • Pack out all garbage, including any uneaten food. Upon vacating your site, do not leave anything in the bear boxes. If possible, even pack out garbage left by others.


Human Waste
  • Use outhouses wherever they are provided.
  • Where no outhouse is available, find a spot at least 50 metres (165 feet) from any trail, campsite or water source. Then dig a hole 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) deep with your trowel or shovel and bury your waste and toilet paper. Use as little toilet paper as possible. All feminine hygiene products must be packed out.
Washing and Waste Water
  • Wash your dishes in a pan, using sand as a scouring pad. If you choose to use soap, ensure it is biodegradable soap. Dispose of wastewater from cooking or dishes in a well drained area down slope from your campsite and at least 50 metres from a trail, campsite or water source.
  • Soaps and detergents, even biodegradable ones, are pollutants and should not be introduced into freshwater. Bathe, brush your teeth and dispose of waste water at least 50 metres from the nearest trail, campsite or water source. Washing directly in lakes and streams can leave pollutants, such as soap and insect repellent, in the water.
Food Waste and Related Items
  • Pack out all food waste and containers. Trash left in outhouses, fire pits or buried in the ground attracts animals and thereby poses a threat to campers.
  • Store all food, garbage, dishes, toothpaste, scented products and the clothing you cooked in, away from your tent. Use the bear boxes, where available. Otherwise, put all material in a well-sealed pack and suspend your pack between two trees at a minimum of four metres (13 feet) off the ground and two metres (6 feet) from tree trunks.
  • If possible, cook at least 100 metres (approximately one football field) downwind from your sleeping area.


  • Consult and comply with the Ontario Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary .
  • Use of barbless hooks is encouraged.
  • Live bait of any kind and lead tackle are prohibited in all national parks.
  • The practice of “catch and release” is encouraged. See the Regulations Summary for “Tips on Live Release of Fish.”
  • Mercury levels in fish in some lakes are a health concern. Please request a copy of the Pukaskwa’s “Fish Consumption Guidelines” for inland lakes. For Lake Superior, refer to the “Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish” available from the Park or the Ministry of Natural Resources.
  • Fish remains are a strong bear attractant. Dispose of fish remains in a fast moving stream or in the deep part of a lake. Never leave these remains along stream banks, lake shores, or campsites.


  • Carry a lightweight camp stove to allow for flexibility in campsite selection and cooking in wet or dry conditions. On river routes, firewood can be very scarce.
  • Driftwood found on shores should be your first choice for firewood. Otherwise, use dead, downed wood. Do not strip bark from living trees.
  • Keep fires small and use small diameter wood so it will burn completely, leaving only ash.
  • Build fires in designated fire pits or on sand. Rocks are scarred and become brittle when exposed to fire.
  • Allow the fire to burn down to ash, cold to the touch. There should be no half-burnt pieces remaining. Crush any charcoal. Ensure fires are put out completely by dowsing thoroughly with water.