Woman finds lots of poop while paddling Yukon River, wants campers to be more responsible

Stephanie Coombes recently travelled the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City with her husband and young sons. She says she's concerned with the amount of garbage and human waste they found along the way.

'It’s gross, it’s unsightly but it’s also unsanitary,' says Stephanie Coombes

While Stephanie Coombes says much of the Yukon River was pristine, she saw lots of human waste and garbage when her family travelled the river from Whitehorse to Dawson City. (Submitted by Stephanie Coombes)

In the summer months, many people can be found camping, paddling and enjoying the unspoiled wilderness of the Yukon. But when they don't clean up after themselves, it can make for a real crappy trip. 

Stephanie Coombes recently travelled the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City with her husband and two young sons. She says she's concerned by the amount of garbage and human waste they saw. 

"I think what we were just surprised about was just how much, well, poop and toilet paper we found at every campsite along the river," she said. 

"I mean it's gross, it's unsightly but it's also unsanitary."  

When they pulled their canoe onto shore, Coombes said they were also "shocked" by the number of trees that had been cut down for firewood and "bushcraft attempts" or unfinished shelters.

It really changes the experience where everywhere you go, there's evidence of garbage and poop.- Stephanie Coombes


She said it was especially challenging as she and her husband were trying to teach their sons about "leave no trace camping" or that "the campsite should be left as if you were never there." 

"I love the idea that we take our children out and we're showing them how beautiful the Yukon is and how incredible these trips can be," she said.

'For the most part the river is beautiful,' says Stephanie Coombes. (Submitted by Stephanice Coombes )

"It really changes the experience where everywhere you go, there's evidence of garbage and poop." 

Coombes and her family finished their trip with bits of twine, broken compasses and fishing rods they had picked up. But despite the waste, she said they they still had a good time. 

"For the most part the river is beautiful," she said. "Mostly it's quite pristine, like there's wonderful camping sites, it's a really great family trip."    

Coombes said she now hopes others will make an effort to be more responsible campers. 

Bury your poop, pee in rocky areas

Davon Callander, the outreach and communications manager with the Yukon Conservation Society, said there's lots of things campers can do to reduce their impact on the environment.

That includes repackaging food to carry less waste and minimizing the impact of fires by building them in designated areas or keeping them small. 

People should also pitch tents and put sleeping bags down on durable surfaces rather than crushing plants, Callander said, and travel on designated trails or limit damage when walking in the bush.

When it comes to going number two, Callender said people should bring a small shovel and bury their poop in a hole about 15 centimetres deep and 60 metres away from water sources. She also advised that people urinate in areas with rocks or gravel, to avoid attracting animals, and bring a bag to seal toilet paper in to bring home to throw away. 

Finally, Callender said campers should not only leave no waste behind, but also not take nature home with them. 

"All the parts of the ecosystem, even the trees and rocks are important for the cycle of the natural world."

Written by Emily Blake based on interviews by Elyn Jones, produced by Kaila Jefferd-Moore


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