Protect Our National Parks

Did you know the National Parks Service is more than 100 years old? Here in Michigan, we’re lucky to have beautiful National Park sites like Isle Royale in the Upper Peninsula, ideal for exploring.

As the NPS establishes a connection with a younger group of Americans, the great land that makes up our parks will see more visitors than ever. When visiting national parks, or really any kind of recognized land, it is important to remember you are a guest in a protected area.

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a grassroots effort to preserve and conserve the natural world. The group sets forth a set of wilderness guidelines, the Leave No Trace Seven Principles©*, which are a great resource for younger students or first-time visitors. These principles guide guests as they help to make national areas cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable for everyone.


The Leave No Trace Seven Principles* are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Whether you are backpacking, camping or visiting for the day, it is smart to plan ahead and prepare. Before you leave, know the weather forecast, packing list, daily schedule and the terrain of your destination. It doesn’t hurt to share your schedule with a trusted friend or family member, either!
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: This principle is enacted to preserve and protect fragile forest areas. If you’re hiking or camping, utilize preexisting trails and camp sites so you don’t endanger any other areas. Sleep and hike on rocks, dirt, gravel or dry grass and avoid pristine areas like flower meadows, new grass or new vegetation.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out what you pack in. There are few trash cans within national parks, especially if you’re on the trail, so make sure you are picking up after yourself and taking care of the park. All food packaging and gear needs to be disposed of properly to ensure a safe environment in the parks.
  4. Leave What You Find: This may seem hard, but it’s imperative to leave what you find in parks. It’s difficult to find a Petoskey stone or cool rock and not take it home, but it’s best to leave it where it is. Taking items home from national parks disrupts natural ecosystems and can take away from other visitors’ experiences. You are also risking the transfer of non-native species when you take items from one environment to another.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Leave No Trace recognizes that most forest fires begin with out of control campfires. Instead, try stargazing, a game or activity or listen for nighttime’s animals. If you do decide to make a fire, use an established fire ring, small branches or logs and make sure the fire has died out when you go to sleep.
  6. Respect Wildlife: Don’t bother the wildlife and they won’t bother you. It’s cool to get a good picture of wildlife but be sure not to get too close. To be safe, use the “thumb rule” and stretch your arm out while sticking your thumb up. If your thumb covers up the whole animal then you’re a safe distance, but if you can still see the animal around your thumb it’s best to back up.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: When you’re in a national park, try not to disrupt other visitors’ experience. Try to minimize cell phone usage, lower music volume and control all pets you bring on the trail.Michigan itself has five designated national parks: Isle Royale, a national park in the Upper Peninsula; Keweenaw, a national historic park in Calumet; Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, the national lakeshore on the Leelanau Peninsula; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along the edges of Lake Superior and the River Raisin National Battlefield located in Monroe.

Which national parks have you visited? Share your favorites in the comments. Check out our Instagram page for more videos of awesome Michigan destinations! 

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*© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

Photo credit: ehrlif

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