Do you know how to responsibly poop while camping? That may be an awkward question, but irresponsible placement of human waste is part of the reason the USDA Forest Service had to close several dispersed camping sites in Boulder County this year. Visitor-created campsites will not be allowed along Rainbow Lakes Road (northwest of Nederland) and Ceran Saint Vrain (west of Jamestown) until spring 2022, and Winiger Ridge (west of Gross Reservoir) will be closed to dispersed camping until spring 2023.

The proximity of these camping areas to creeks and the reservoir has led many people to “do their business” too close to the water, which created water quality issues. Katherine Armstrong, public affairs specialist with the Forest Service, says the sheer volume of people who have been setting up impromptu campsites in those areas caused problems beyond sanitation as well. “Last year, we had a 200 percent increase in camping, and the more people you have returning time and time again, the more trampled those places get and you start to lose all the vegetation.”

Wall-to-wall campsites were also increasing wildfire risk, blocking water access for anglers and spilling over onto private property. The massive number of cars parked along the roads were packed so tight there wasn’t enough room for emergency vehicles to get through, much less daytime visitors trying to reach local trailheads.

Armstrong says the Forest Service will deliberate on the future of dispersed camping in these areas over the winter and determine how best to preserve the land while keeping it accessible for recreation. To keep this from happening in the future, she says, “I would recommend people do a little bit of research and explore new, more dispersed places. Drive a little farther—spread it out. The closer you are to a city, the more people are trying to concentrate activities right there.”

For guidelines on camping (and pooping) responsibly, visit the Leave No Trace website at lnt.org/why/7-principles. Be sure to check the website of any park you plan on visiting for notices about fire bans, trail closures and other important information.

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