By Victoria Walsh, GirlGoneGood Wellness + Wilderness — I was asked by Naturally L&A to write and highlight the importance of responsible tourism for visitors travelling to enjoy the abundance of natural outdoor experiences Lennox & Addington County has to offer.
Recently, I returned to experience and enjoy new-to-me spots, including Menzel Centennial Provincial Nature Area with it’s easy 4km out and back trail with lush flora, boardwalks, lake view, and plenty of wildlife. Then it was off to check out the waterfall in Forest Mills, and after a delicious stop at Abrams Bakery in Newburgh, finished the day at Camden Lake Provincial Wildlife Area to scout out the boat launch and area for future SUP excursions.
And no trip to L&A is complete without stopping to hike Sheffield Conservation Area once again with its incredible lookout viewing area and rich wildlife, then experiencing the nearby L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area.
Whether it’s day out camping, hiking, paddling, or other outdoor activities, this community sees responsible recreation an essential component for both the environment and the visitor’s wellbeing. It encompasses personal practices that revolve around environmental health, safety, and respect for others.
Responsible recreation empowers us to enjoy nature in a way that enriches our experience while still being able to protect nature. Check out some tips below and download this handy guide to maximize your experience.
Before Your Visit: Plan and Prepare
- Get information and inspiration from L&A’s tourism website. Whether it’s driving routes or trail updates or the best local spots to paddle – they have you covered.
- Health guidelines vary between health districts, check KFL&A Public Health prior to coming out.
- Taking a look at the trail length, elevation gain, and amenities can help when determining if it’s the right trail for you. With rivers and lakes, it’s wise to check water bacteria levels for safe swimming before jumping in. Another useful tool is the Swim Guide App.
- Check trail conditions for closures, rerouting, mud, or fragile flora to be aware of. Check road conditions and note if there are closures, dirt roads, gravel roads, or parking.
- There are areas within the county, and on the trails, that have little to no cell reception. Consider carrying an emergency spotter while recreating in these spots.
- Although the weather reports often change day to day, checking can get you an overall idea on what to pack and prepare for your adventure. It is always a good idea to bring warm clothes, rain gear, good footwear, and sun protection.
- Don’t forget to pack and bring extra personal medication. For adults, it’s a good idea to always carry chewable Aspirin in your first aid kit and know how to use for an emergency situation. If you have food sensitivities, allergies, or specific dietary requirements, consider that although the county’s south end has a higher population with all the food amenities, the central and north areas are limited. It is best to bring your own foods in this case.
- Free printable day hike, post-hike, and car kit packing lists are available at girlgonegood.
During Your Visit: Responsible Recreation
10 Essentials for Hiking
Carry the 10 essentials for hiking with you, which includes:
- navigation (map and compass, GPS, extra cell charger),
- headlamp (flashlight, glow sticks, spare headlamp),
- sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen),
- first aid (including tick removal, bug repellent, and foot care),
- knife (gear repair kit, duct tape),
- fire (waterproof matches),
- shelter (emergency blanket),
- extra food (high caloric density),
- extra water (electrolytes), and
- extra clothing (warm layers, rain gear, extra socks).
More Safety Tips
- Do you know the legal paddling safety requirements? No matter if it’s SUP, kayak, or canoe, the rules are the same when it comes to water safety and drawn from Canada Shipping Act, 2001. In Ontario, you need to be wearing a PFD or have one on board with a 15m buoyant throw rope. A sound signaling device, like a ‘pealess’ whistle is also required. My favourite being Storm Whistles that you can purchase online (also my recommendation for hiking as well). Getting out for sunrise or sunset is also an increasingly popular activity, just don’t forget your water tight flashlight!
- Recreate within your limits (and your well within your dog’s limit).
- If you’re out for that epic sunrise or sunset from a hiking trail, make sure it’s a trail that is well marked, that you have navigation gear, and a minimum of two lights (headlamps or flashlights). The ability to get easily turned around or miss signs in the dark is often underestimated, be smart and safe!
- Ticks and bears and hunting season.
Leave No Trace
Always practice the 7 Principals from Leave No Trace for Outdoor Ethics. These are the golden rules to recreating outdoors! It includes;
- plan ahead and prepare,
- travel and camp on durable surfaces,
- dispose of waste properly,
- leave what you find,
- minimize campfire impacts,
- respect wildlife, and
- be considerate of other visitors
Other Environment Considerations
- Avoid using sunscreen or soaps in lakes and rivers! Instead, opt for long sleeve UVA/UVB protective clothing and hats. Carbon-based UV filters and nano-particulate UV filters (using zinc and titanium) negatively impact algae and fish in our lakes and rivers over time.
- Before foraging ask yourself: Is it legal on this land? (hint: see below). Can you accurately identify the plant? Is this a species at risk? Do you know what part of the plant is edible? Is it the right season to pick this plant? Can you forage in manner that conserves the species? Do you know how to prepare the plant for safe consumption? Did you know that in Ontario, “foraging is prohibited in provincial parks without proper authorization and also in conservation reserves, unless the forager is harvesting for personal consumption. Some municipalities, such as the City of Toronto, ban foraging in city-run parks, forests, and ravines. The province prohibits the harvesting of any plant listed as endangered, threatened, or extirpated.”
- Learn about the land you’re recreating on by asking, what Indigenous lands are these? What can I learn about the First Nations in this area?
- We are graced with several incredible historically significant heritage buildings, sites, and art – such as the 260+ Indigenous pictographs on Mazinaw Rock at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Do not erase, touch, or mark-up the past. Oils from our hands can damage pictographs and hasten there destruction.
- Become a citizen scientist by identifying flora and fauna with the iNaturalist app or taking water samples for Water Rangers.
- Double check nature and wildlife reserve rules prior to setting out. Always keep dogs on a leash and on the trail (unless in a designated off leash area). Why? Because there’s negative impact on the flora and fauna, and it effects the experience of other hikers. There is greater impact than you may realise, it does not suffice to say “it’s ok, my dog is friendly” or to pick up poop bags on the hike back. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Dogs in Ottawa + Region for all the details, insights, and impact.
- Kindly keep loud music and singing to your heart’s content for the car rides! Loud noises on the trails disturbs wildlife and disrupts the experience for other hikers.
- Although the pictures can be incredible, do you know the regulations for flying drones, where they can be flown, and impact on wildlife?
After You Visit: Share and Care
There are tons of trails to try out and paddle worthy places in Lennox & Addington County, let us know your favourite experiences and memories. Consider promoting your responsible recreation habits and share the highlights of your trip by tagging #unspoiledla, #naturallyla, and #lennoxandaddington in your social media posts!
Victoria Walsh is the creator of GirlGoneGood, a community focused on wellness and wilderness. It provides insights and resources for trails in Ottawa and beyond, such as a trail finder map, trail reports, packing lists, challenges, resources for kids, + trail recommendations. On wellness, GirlGoneGood is focused on our connection to self, others, and nature.