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As Your Rafting Outfitter – Dvorak’s wants you to Know!

Rafting Etiquette

All Visitors Are Public Land Stewards and Must Practice Camping Sustainability

Summer is coming fast, and we need to think about where we play outside—the rivers we raft down, the trails we hike, and the lakes we camp beside—are public land. The United States is made up of 2.27 billion acres of land in total; of that, 640 million acres are federal public lands. That means they’re managed by the federal government, with the public’s tax dollars, and open to… the public. It’s land that we all own.

There are several different designations for federal public lands, just as many agencies manage them. This has implications for how that land is used and how we, as the public, benefit from and access them, including the opportunity for outfitters to offer guided trips under special use permits in some areas. Here are a few ways to help you understand how we can all protect our lands.

Some Old River Camping Practices Still Leave Their Scars!

When we started boating the rivers in the USA in the early ’70s, we all built a fire on the ground with a few rocks surrounding it, cooked our meals on it, and used it for warmth if needed. When we left, we drowned it out and moved on to the next camp. Over the years, we learned that this created several environmental issues. 

Fireside and Camping Area Scars: 

  • The fire scar left behind was a blight for the next visitors – campers.
  • Many users did not adequately drown out the fires; unwanted spot fires destroyed the formerly pristine area.
  • We quickly denuded areas around standard campsites of firewood and damaged trees and vegetation, finding more firewood.
  • Over these 43 years, many changes were made until the present state of “Minimum Impact Camping” techniques has come into play with great pleasure. 
  • We now carry metal firepans and set them on fire retardant blankets to catch embers that might escape the firepan.
  • We now carry in our firewood or use only wood collected from large driftwood piles. 
  • We also do almost all our cooking using propane stoves and mostly use charcoal for grilling in the firepans. 
  • At the end of the camp stay, we drown the remnants in the firepans in a metal bucket and carry the remaining charcoal ‘clinkers’ in our trash containers.
  • We clean the campsite and surrounding area, leaving no trace except for footprints behind. 

Human Waste – Compost Garbage: 

  • We also went through several iterations on dealing with the disposal of human waste, starting with digging a slot trench latrine and soon realizing it was hard to find a suitable spot without digging up someone else’s trench.
  • We then went to individual “cat holes,” but animals dug them up, and we had toilet paper roses throughout the popular areas. 
  • Right to let’s have everyone burn their toilet paper before burying it. Not such a great idea; the wind catches burning toilet paper, and now we’ve burned our restroom down or perhaps the whole forest. 
  • The plan now was for river outfitters and campers to carry out all our human waste and by-products. “Clean waste practices”
  • What was available was military surplus 20MM rocket boxes lined with trash bags, put a seat on them, and contained all our business in them. 
  • Our designated toilet is still often called “the Groover” due to the nice creases you get on each cheek when sitting on the rigid metal box without upgrading a seat. 
  • Problem #1 was solved by cutting down toilet seats to fit down the side of the rocket box. 
  • We, however, did not solve problem #2 of local landfills not being particularly enamored with lots of plastic bags full of feces ending up in those landfills. What to do? 
  • #3 Problem solved, outfitters now carry out all solid human waste in stainless washable/reusable toilet box containers that are primarily dumped at RV dump stations or local river agency’s designated sanitation facilities. Private boaters must adapt to new regulations as well. 

Trash – Burn, Bash & Bury Update:

  • The next issue was trash. The old “Burn, Bash, and Bury” methods were quickly found to cause the same problem we had with slot trenches for latrines and mini landfills everywhere! 
  • The obvious solution was to carry out everything we brought in with us. 
  • We also encourage everyone on the trip to pick up any piece of litter and micro trash they might see around camp or on a hike, put it in their pocket, and deposit it in the trash bags we set up at lunch and the campsite. 
  • That is, we want to have as small an impact as possible hence the concept of “leave no trace,” but we feel it’s impossible not to leave visitors’ use traces of our passing. It’s best to leave that trace as minimally as possible.
  • It’s also important to remember that these minimum-impact practices were developed over several decades and are always ongoing. As new concerns become apparent, we will have to try and solve them to the best of our ability and continue to educate new users of the natural environment about these best practices.

Finally, we will share some ways to “Leave No Trace.” 

  • What we all can do to keep the environment clean and pristine for the many generations to come down our wilderness rivers and camp in our beautiful forests and parks. Here are some easy things to consider on your next adventure into the wild.
  • While packing for your wilderness trip, try reducing litter at the source—before you leave town. Leave unnecessary packaging at home and plan your packing to avoid throwaways as much as possible.


  • Great campsites are found, not made. Use well-established campsites that are big enough for your group and avoid expanding the campsite beyond the established area so as not to damage vegetation. Don’t dig trenches or use vegetation to build structures at your campsite.
  • Camping furniture is a great way to minimize your impact and stay comfortable. By bringing camp chairs, for example, you won’t be tempted to move logs or rocks for seats, which can disturb the habitat.
  • Bring a bit of clothesline to dry out wet clothes and towels, so you’re not compelled to hammer a nail into a tree or hang clothing from branches, both of which can cause damage to trees and make them more susceptible to disease. Breaking branches off trees can also create an ugly scar.
  • Ensure you have all your tent stakes so you don’t have to tie them down to rocks or logs and bring a hatchet or a hammer for pounding them in.6) Don’t forget trash and plastic bags for your pet’s poop; drop them in proper waste containers on your way out.
  • Bring some small trash bags to keep your tent area clean and carry day hike trash to camp central trash bags. Put trash–even crumbs, peels, and bits of micro trash found into garbage bags and dispose of it properly.
  • Bring bio-degradable soap for personal use and dishes and washing up, and use a fine mesh strainer to screen out small food particles from wastewater. It’s best to wash your dishes away from camp and at least 200 feet from any water source using a portable wash with four tubs; Rinse – Wash – Rinse – Disinfect. When you’re done, strain your tubs of water into the soil and dispose of any food remaining in the strainer by placing it in the trash. Scatter the wastewater broadly or follow the river etiquette procedures. As a rule, use as little soap as possible. Even biodegradable soap put directly into the water can affect the quality of lakes and streams.
  • Your outfitter will advise you to properly store any food (and trash) in the designated food boxes where appropriate. Don’t keep food in your tents. You’d hate to have a bear or a pack of raccoons raid your tent or kitchen and spread trash around the campground.
  • Plan to use bathrooms or outhouses if available. If not, your outfitter on multi-day river trips will bring a portable toilet system or a supply of WAG bags and pack out your human waste on a day-use river trip.

Everybody loves a good campfire

  • If permitted, your outfitters will have stand-alone firepans to build a campfire in unless there are established fire rings. Use dead and downed wood no more significant than your forearm (or bring or purchase firewood), do not burn trash, burn all wood to ash and make sure your fire ring is entirely out (and cold) before removing any clinkers and debris to carry out leaving a clean campsite.
  • And last but not least, spread out as a group before you go and inspect your campsite for “micro-trash” such as bits of food and trash and that special pair of sunglasses you left hanging in the tree!    

Who Oversees These Public Lands? 

These federal agencies manage our Public Lands, BLM Bureau of Land Management, National Forests, Wilderness, National Parks, National Monuments, and Wild and Scenic. Visiting Public Lands doesn’t stop there. There are other types of public lands in the country. State forests, state parks, wildlife refuges, and even city parks—are all examples of places open to the public and owned by us, our places to play outside, benefit from, protect, and steward. 

DVORAK EXPEDITIONS PARTNERS WITH:  Big Bend National Park, Browns Canyon National Monument, recreation partners with; Pike San Isabel and Routt, Medicine Bow, and White River National Forests, All or part of this operation are conducted on Public Lands under special permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management-BLM and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Colorado River Outfitters License #001 Dept. Of Regulatory Agency DORA Colo. Fishing Outfitter Lic. #3234 & 796 DVK is an Equal Opportunity Employer

It’s also important to note that the Western model of conservation—defined by words like “unimpaired” and the wilderness concepts of “remote” and “untrammeled by man”—fails to consider the indigenous peoples who have lived and thrived within many of these landscapes for thousands of years.