While it may sound obvious, proper trip planning can prevent high-impact travel, such as:
Getting lost or having to escape mid-canyon
Needing rescue which has a huge impact
Leaving unnecessary anchors in-canyon
New to PNW Canyoning? Take The Mountaineers online Canyon Trip Planning Course
At the Parking Lot
Carpool whenever possible to reduce both your physical impact and carbon footprint
Park with others in mind
Avoid parking over tall grasses that could catch fire
Use an established pit toilet if one is available. Otherwise, pack out any toilet paper. Do not contribute to social "toilets"
Use established trails when possible. Allow faster parties to pass.
Off-trail, spread out when the terrain allows to avoid establishing social trails
Use a satellite tracking app like Gaia or Caltopo to drop in as close to the precise drop-in point as possible
Flagging & Cairns
In recent years, flagging has been used in excess in Washington. Flagging should be used as a temporary tool only when necessary to reduce our impact.
Flagging should never be visible from an established trail
Flagging can help prevent erosion on loose terrain by guiding parties to stay on a stable path that can support multiple parties
Flagging should be removed once a clear, stable route is visible
Flagging should NOT be used when parties can reasonably spread out to minimize impact
Travel in the Creek
Before going into a canyon, we need to ensure there aren't fragile aquatic species (such as spawning salmon) that would be disturbed by our presence. Once we've done that, we should travel in the creek, below the high-water mark whenever possible, even if it would be easier to scramble around an obstacle on the side of the creek.
Our creeks are scoured annually during high-flow season, so staying in that scoured boundary avoids damaging adjacent soils & vegetation. Some high-use canyons already have mid-canyon social trails along the side. Please avoid contributing to this. Plan to creek-walk.
Noise & Visibility
To ensure each party has an opportunity to experience the solitude canyoning offers, and to ensure we don't have a negative impact on other users, like hikers, we must minimize our noise & visibility.
Learn hand signals and use them whenever possible.
Use whistle signals only when no line-of-sight exists
Station a line-of-sight at the bottom if needed
Do not yell in an aquatic canyon
Avoid rappelling in view of hiking destinations during peak hiking times
Don't Poop in the Canyon
Just don't. Come prepared to pack out all waste, including human waste. Why?
Human waste is a biohazard.
Leaving human waste below the flood line will result in your biohazard entering our streams and rivers. Gross.
Scrambling out of the creek to poop often creates erosive damage to the creek's catchment, and if you don't bury it deep enough, it will get washed into the stream.
Come prepared with a poop bag and an odor-proof over-bag to carry it out.
It's hard to stay fed and hydrated in an aquatic canyon. Everything is wet, some canyons offer few spots to sit and open a keg, and the whole team often is busy. Plan ahead to manage your food based on the canyon and the team.
Skip small individually wrapped things (unless you pre-package them and leave the wrappers at home)
Leave chips & popcorn at home.
Avoid paper bags and glass containers
Come with an extra ziploc for garbage (apple cores, orange peels, wrappers)
Our choice of anchor determines our impact on the canyon environment.
Avoid: Webbing left around movable natural anchors in the creek (logs, cairns, etc...) will likely become garbage in our streams & rivers each year when the creek floods.
Avoid: Natural anchors more than 5' above the high-water line quickly lead to erosion from canyoneers accessing the anchors
Avoid: "Ghosting" in a way that puts the fall line on soil leaves a much bigger impact than putting webbing on an anchor that keeps the rappeller on bedrock.
Strive for: Low-impact anchors are on solid bedrock or large, resilient trees, boulders or logs. Their position puts the fall-line on clean rock, so that the rappeller is traveling on a scoured, durable surface, rather than soil
Strive for: Bolted anchors are usually (but not always) the lowest impact anchor in Washington canyons.
Bolts placed in the flood zone should be left unlinked to minimize debris-entrapment
Only stainless bolts and hangers should be used
DO NOT place bolts unless you have specific training for bolting in a canyon environment and have confirmed that they are allowed in that specific canyon.
All bolts should be placed with a plan for removal (If this doesn't make sense, don't bolt)