Caring for Alpine Lakes

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Pristine alpine lakes – we take them for granted. But in the backcountry, lakes are popular destinations. These areas already have extreme weather conditions and short growing seasons, making them slow growing environments for plant life. It doesn’t take too many footsteps for shorelines to degrade and the water’s edge to become a muddy bog. The need for extra care around these sensitive areas is something all backcountry enthusiasts should take to heart.

Tips for minimizing impact around lakes:

  • When camping, use a collapsible bucket to collect large amounts of water in one trip, rather than multiple trips to the fragile lakeshore.
  • Cook one pot meals and eat from the pot to limit the number of dishes needing washing (I’ve read of some enthusiasts adding ¼ cup water to their bowls and drinking dregs to get rid of large food particles before washing, but I have to admit I’m not quite that committed).
  • Wash your dishes at least 200 feet away from the lake.
  • Use a phosphate free, biodegradable soap.
  • As with dishes, personal bathing should be done at least 200 feet from the lakeshore.
  • If fishing, choose rocky slopes to stand.
  • If angling and planning to keep your catch, discard remains in at least 25’ deep water (not in shallows) or bury at least 300 feet away from lakeshore.


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