Imagine that we are on a visit to a museum. The exhibits are beautiful and delicate, the surroundings mysterious and fascinating. How would we conduct ourselves? Would we trample through roped areas, break open exhibit cases, or cut apart furnishings and start a fire? On our way out, would we remove a painting as a souvenir? Of course not!
Yet, when we visit lakes and camp along fragile shorelines, some of us, often unconsciously, display similar behavior. Some of us may have removed vegetation for a camping spot that leaves the land barren; dug a hole for a toilet damaging a cultural resource or leaving a smelly mess for the next camper; left garbage in a fire ring that causes animals to gravitate towards campgrounds. For every cause, there is an effect. While these actions may seem harmless at the time, they have a damaging cumulative affect as more and more visitors engage in this behavior. The number of people visiting Chickasaw is growing yearly. Now more than ever we must learn to on the land and water.
If we learn to think of the lake and its associated desert and forest environments as a museum, not with walls and cases, but as a living museum, where the animals are wild and their habitat sensitive we can learn to minimize our impact to that living museum. Tread Lightly is not a set of rules or regulations. Rather, it is first and foremost an attitude and an ethic. Tread Lightly is about respecting and caring for wild lands, doing your part to protect our natural/cultural resources. Below, are the five principles that make up this important ethic.
• Stay on designated trails and waterways open to your type of use (boat, personal watercraft, on foot, or bicycle).
• There is no off-road vehicle use allowed within Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
• Observe no wake zones, which are marked with buoys.
• Drinking and driving do not mix. Please designate a sober driver.
Respect The Environment And The Rights Of Others
• Respect and be considerate of other users so that all can enjoy a quality experience.
• In a personal watercraft, be cautious around canoes, kayaks, boats, and swimmers.
• Motorized craft always yield the right of way to non-motorized vessels.
• Sound travels farther on water. Slow down when operating motorized craft near people.
• Respect wildlife. Be sensitive to their life sustaining needs by keeping your distance.
Educate Yourself, Plan and Prepare Before You Go
• Obtain a map at visitor/information centers, campgrounds, boat launches or by mail.
• Know proper use and care of your watercraft. Keep it in good working condition.
• Know Chickasaw National Recreation Area regulations/fees for boating, camping, campfires, hunting, and fishing.
• Check weather forecast before going out on the lake. Get off the lake if a thunderstorm is near.
• Think safety first: wear life jackets, drink plenty of water, carry adequate fuel, and a fire extinguisher.
Avoid Sensitive Areas
• It is important to slow down in shallow waters and near shorelines because these areas are habitat to an abundance of plant and animal life.
• Our shorelines are prime breeding and feeding areas for fish, birds, and other wildlife. Be aware of seasonal breeding and nesting areas, and do not disturb these sites.
• The lake bank and vegetation can be easily damaged or eroded. Do not climb up steep embankments which can cause severe erosion.
• Always launch watercraft at a designated boat ramp. Backing a vehicle on a riverbank or lake shore can damage the area and leads to erosion.
Do Your Part
• Take out everything you bring in. Do not burn garbage; cans do not burn and plastics emit toxic fumes. Challenge yourself to leave the area cleaner than you found it!
• Wildfires can start by unattended campfires. Campfires are permitted in National Park Service metal fire rings only. Please be sure your campfire is completely out.
• Properly dispose of human waste.
• Before leaving the boat launch, make sure to remove all plant material from your watercraft and dispose of plants in a garbage container. Also, be sure remove weeds from boots and tires. This will help prevent invasive plant species from spreading from lake to lake and throughout the park and it's neighbors.
Remember by practicing the Tread Lightly! principles
T ravel responsibly
R espect the rights of others
E ducate yourself
A void sensitive areas
D o your part
you not only protect the outdoors, but you protect recreation opportunities for future generations.
For more information you can contact Chickasaws' Master Educator of Leave No Trace, Dan Winings by email or at (580) 622-7282.