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#161024 - 01/24/12 11:01 AM Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources?
zhaddock Offline
newbie

Registered: 12/15/11
Posts: 3
I understand why no one wants you to camp within 200' of a trail but, why do the mandate that you should be 200'from water sources? Is it a saftey concern such as flash floods or, a fear of contamination?

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#161032 - 01/24/12 11:47 AM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: zhaddock]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Contamination is certainly a factor, but at least in drier parts of the country, camping at a distance allow critters access to their only water source.

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#161034 - 01/24/12 11:56 AM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: zhaddock]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
In most places it's a contamination and overuse thing, but that's not a stone hard rule and here in the Ozarks/Ouchita Mountains you can camp on the banks of many popular canoeing/kayaking streams. You're required to be a few hundred feet from any water source to relieve yourself though. And you're advised to be aware that flash floods can and do occur so you should at least have a fast exit to higher ground if you do camp near the water's edge.

The reason it's not an issue on some streams here is because those streams rise over their normal banks several times a year and any trace of a campsite disappears when they do, and the only trace you'd find before that happens would be footprints and the remnants of a campfire. Occasionally, campers get washed away with the high water too.

I look for gravel bars that are at least 10 ft higher than the water level and have access to a steep, but easy to climb, hill behind me, and I pay close attention to the weather forecasts and weather radar from NOAA.


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#161040 - 01/24/12 12:47 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: zhaddock]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
You are also supposed to not wash dishes directly in the water source - take it away to do the washing and rinsing, disperse the "dirty" water rather than dumping all in a single spot. Use only biodegradable soap, if any.

Do not do #1 or #2 within that 200 feet of the water source, either.

I have seen people break all three rules - they become very irate when you point out to them what you know the ranger told them when the permit was issued. In some places it's 50 feet, in others 100 feet, apparently where you are it's 200 - and people ignore even the 50 feet.

One of the reasons we have to filter water - people don't pay attention to things like this, water sources are contaminated.

And yes, in some places, the water rises quickly.
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#161043 - 01/24/12 01:01 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: billstephenson]
zhaddock Offline
newbie

Registered: 12/15/11
Posts: 3
Originally Posted By billstephenson
In most places it's a contamination and overuse thing, but that's not a stone hard rule and here in the Ozarks/Ouchita Mountains you can camp on the banks of many popular canoeing/kayaking streams. You're required to be a few hundred feet from any water source to relieve yourself though. And you're advised to be aware that flash floods can and do occur so you should at least have a fast exit to higher ground if you do camp near the water's edge.

The reason it's not an issue on some streams here is because those streams rise over their normal banks several times a year and any trace of a campsite disappears when they do, and the only trace you'd find before that happens would be footprints and the remnants of a campfire. Occasionally, campers get washed away with the high water too.

I look for gravel bars that are at least 10 ft higher than the water level and have access to a steep, but easy to climb, hill behind me, and I pay close attention to the weather forecasts and weather radar from NOAA.




I grew up in SE Kansas just a stones throww away from your area. I'm planing a trip on the OHT this spring.

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#161047 - 01/24/12 01:20 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: zhaddock]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By zhaddock
I grew up in SE Kansas just a stones throww away from your area. I'm planing a trip on the OHT this spring.


I still haven't hiked any of that trail yet, but I'd love to do the Hurricane Creek section and bushwhack around the wilderness area there.

I think I'll be crossing a section of it next week if the weather breaks our way. I'll be going down to the Lower Buffalo River Wilderness and I'm pretty sure the section that crosses the Sylamore Creek is in our path.

What part will you be hiking, or will you through hike it?
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#161048 - 01/24/12 01:23 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: billstephenson]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Pretty much the same in Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana area, Bill. I'll typically try to avoid camping right by the creek for a more practical reason: the things that bug me are thicker by the creek. The water, particularly if the stream is sluggish, seems to draw a thicker swarm of gnats and mosquitoes. It also seems to draw a thicker swarm of campers, and for some reason the water motivates them to periodically go "YAAA_HOOOOOOOO!" and "WWWOOOOOOOOOO!" Of course, after dark things quiet down as the alcohol kicks in - then it's just a lot of loud talking and laughing, punctuated by beer cans and bottles being crushed and thrown. (Did I mention that these creekside "campsites" are mostly bare ground, devoid of vegetation, and totally unappetizing to the discriminating camper?)

I usually just stop to filter a couple liters of water and move on up to a more secluded spot on the ridge, and avoid all the nonsense. Better breezes and fewer bugs are a side benefit.

I can hear you all now: "You need to find a new place to hike." Unfortunately, given time constraints and available areas, I don't always have that luxury. So, I do the best I can. (Local authorities do the best they can, too, and are getting more aggressive about using roadblocks and checking permits to hold down the parties. They're badly outnumbered, though.)


Edited by Glenn (01/24/12 01:26 PM)

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#161052 - 01/24/12 02:18 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: billstephenson]
zhaddock Offline
newbie

Registered: 12/15/11
Posts: 3
Originally Posted By billstephenson
Originally Posted By zhaddock
I grew up in SE Kansas just a stones throww away from your area. I'm planing a trip on the OHT this spring.


I still haven't hiked any of that trail yet, but I'd love to do the Hurricane Creek section and bushwhack around the wilderness area there.

I think I'll be crossing a section of it next week if the weather breaks our way. I'll be going down to the Lower Buffalo River Wilderness and I'm pretty sure the section that crosses the Sylamore Creek is in our path.

What part will you be hiking, or will you through hike it?

Right now I'm just planning on starting at Lake Ft Smith and seeing how far I can get in four days.

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#161058 - 01/24/12 04:39 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Lori, your post is a perfect example of why the best places to hike are those that are the least frequented. With any luck, you don't have to worry about those antics.


Edited by oldranger (01/24/12 04:39 PM)

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#161071 - 01/24/12 06:55 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: oldranger]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6599
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
All these are important:

Avoiding contamination of water supplies. Let's face it, most of us don't go very far from the tent during middle-of-the-night outings.

Reducing impact on the banks of the water source, particularly lakes. The banks and shores get more than enough wear and tear from those seeking water and from anglers. Of course the more popular the area, the more important it is to camp well away from the shore.

Leaving the area near the water source free for wildlife to visit during the night. Many animals will go without rather than pass close to humans.

Spreading out the campers so that each can have more privacy. I try to get a quarter-mile away (if the terrrain permits) for this reason alone.

The safety issue is important with rivers and streams, probably not so much with lakes. However, watch your tent site--a supposedly level-looking site can turn into a lake, or at least a deep puddle, in heavy rain!

Other issues include avoiding bugs and avoiding areas of high humidity which can lead to considerable moisture condensation in your shelter. These aren't the reasons the 200 feet (or 100 feet in some areas) distance is required, but following this rule will certainly add to your own comfort.

Remember that "water sources" include boggy meadows as well--they eventually drain into the nearest stream or lake.

I've been in some situations in which I had to break some of the distance regulations due to the unavailability of tent sites. This has happened to me a few times in the bark beetle-killed forests in the Rockies, where camping under dead trees would be suicidal. If I have to do this, I consider the distance from water sources far more important than distance from the trail. You can usually get out of sight of the trail without having to go the whole 200 feet.


Edited by OregonMouse (01/24/12 07:01 PM)
_________________________
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#161082 - 01/24/12 11:05 PM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: zhaddock]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2823
Loc: California
I definitely follow these rules in high impacted areas. In some very remote off-trail areas where less than a handfull of people visit, I have camped closer to water sources. BUT, I ALWAYS wash and do #2 200 feet or more from the water sources. I have camped on the top of glacial polished flat rocks that happen to be right next to a lake or stream. In this case, you have to be aware of everything you do so nothing gets into the water. So it is a matter of good judgement. There are some very over-used places that I, like OM, get more than 200 feet away. The large 2+ gallon collapsable water jugs are very useful for expanding your campsite possibilities. The "rules" are really guidelines- sometimes you need to be even more distant than the "rule" says. And for flooding- the flood prone area often has residual flood debris on the ground. If you see lots of this, then get up higher! Also watch out for dry gullies that flash flood. Every year you hear of unlucky campers who get washed away at night. When you pick a campsite, ask yourself; do I see any tress that would fall on me?, do I see any flood debris?, am I under an unstable slope?, will a rock fall off a cliff and roll into my campsite?, am I protected from high wind?, is my site robust (not fragile-- walking around should not create footprints), and yes, in a well used area are you 200 feet from water sources.

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#161087 - 01/25/12 06:20 AM Re: Why do they say to camp 200' from water sources? [Re: wandering_daisy]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
And in every one of the hazards that WD cites, failure to look out for them has resulted in fatalities and grievous injuries....

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