Bushwalking: How to look after our National Parks

"Bushwalking the do's and don'ts - General Tips on how to look after our parks"

Take Care in Our National Parks, do not cause any damage to the natural environment

Care for our National Parks
The impact on our wilderness areas from bushwalking?

Minimising the impact from hikers and bushwalkers visiting our national parks and wilderness areas can be achieved by using a little care.

People today are much more aware of health issues and are looking to improve fitness levels so quite a number have taken up bushwalking. We also have thousands of visitors to our country every year and being impressed by Australia's wilderness areas are spending time in the parks.

Plus the population is growing; people are living longer and looking for more interesting ways to walk. Then the medical profession tell us that walking is one of the very best exercises for keeping fit. Because of this, more individuals and families are walking and discovering the national parks which is increasing the impact!

Australia has fabulous wide open spaces and some of the best bushwalking trails and NATIONAL PARKS in the world. So more and more people are joining BUSHWALKING CLUBS and taking walking and hiking very seriously, walking in the city parks as well as taking to the outback wilderness areas and enjoying what's on offer.

It is because of the heavier people traffic and increasing numbers we need to consider the impact and how we can assist in minimising the damage these areas. Some people are causing very serious damage to the natural environment.

Things like not cleaning up properly before leaving an area, generally leaving rubbish behind for animals to forage in and tear up, the bird life to collects things and places them in nests, plastic are one of the worst things left behind. Bushwalkers or hikers not cleaning up campfires, the expansion of campsites then trampling and chopping vegetation, trees for fire wood or tent stakes, not to mention the deterioration of the tracks.

By the way please take all your litter and rubbish with you when you leave, do not leave it behind for the animals animals to try to clean up or move!

Take your rubbish with you

With promotion, signage, the walking clubs giving instructions to member's and publications like this one, the public (walkers) are becoming more aware of the situation people are starting to make the effort. The danger is still prevalent and no one wants to see the tracks or parks closing or even the number of people using the areas minimised.

Just keep in mind to try to minimise your impact, a simple thing like walking softly and being gentle with your walking motion on the tracks can lower the damage to the NATURAL environment. Also everyone wants to keep the areas in the natural state and at the same time reduce the need for restrictions on bushwalkers or track closures.

Bushwalking Clubs are a great way to introduce you to the Australian bush or national parks and meet new friends. You would be walking with a group and learning some of the better bushwalking and impact lowering techniques, plus most of the clubs will or should carry insurance. So in case of injury you will be covered. Fire is a very important thing to learn about, how and where to start a fire and more importantly how to extinguish it, the Australian laws carry very heavy penalties in the regard to causing a fire.

Because of the impact of people traffic in some areas tracks have already been modernised or altered, assisting in minimising the impact, but at the same time this takes a little away from the natural look. In some instances boardwalks have been installed because of the large numbers of visitors.

How bushwalkers are able to help minimise damage

Remember, just by being in a national park, wilderness areas or reserve you are causing damage as every step you take moves something.

Be aware of were you are and what you are stepping on, keep a watchful eye on the track ahead and on everything you do. But most importantly stay on the track, after it rains people have a habit of walking on the edge to avoid the mud, DON'T! Stay on the track in all conditions.

Stepping on the edgesof the track causes the track to widen and more erosion plus walkers hit, break small branches from the trees and sometimes crush new vegetation, some people even create new tracks as they cut a corners which can cause people following confusion as to which track to use.

The cutting of new tracks is illegal and even if you have seen it in the movies or read Hansel and Gretel DON'T mark tracks with bread crumbs, ribbon, tape, beer cans or anything else. This practice is unsightly, can damage plants or trees and most importantly will confuse following walkers. Please keep the area natural and if you have people following JUST WAIT!

Where there are no tracks, as in open areas and you are in a group try not to walk in Indian style one after the other move a part, consider vegetation walked on once might grow back.

Footwear

One should wear and select the right foot attire before starting, bushwalking in the wrong shoes will not only harm the environment, it's not that good for your feet. Lightweight style hiking or walking boots are usually the best, some wear sneakers which are fine on most tracks on the mainland in the summer months. Try to wear softer shoes when camping and choose a different route to the latrine or other trackless areas of the campsite.

Looking After the Wildlife

When in the wilderness areas of Australia remember that YOU are the trespasser! Do not disturb the wildlife. This is the home to many mostly timid animals nevertheless watch out for snakes and let them pass! All these animals and more have the right to there.

Respect the Land

The INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY have many places in the Australian bush that have spiritual or cultural significance for their communities and many are heritage listed. Please treat these with consideration and respect. In some cases you will need to obtain permission from the traditional landowners or the relevant land manager to visit some sensitive areas.

Please do not touch Indigenous relics; leave then as you found them and certainly DO NOT touch paintings or rock engravings.

Other Bushwalkers

Please be courteous to other hikers and walkers, not to mention the animals that reside in the area you are in. Special attention needs be considered with the sound of radios, CD players and mobile phones. The bush has thousands of wonderful sounds if you really take the time to listen. So mechanical noise that is created is really out of place in the natural environment.

Everyone visiting the parks needs to be aware of others enjoy the situation at the same time as you so please ensure your behaviour and activities don't disturb or offend. Consider camping as far away from other groups as you can and don't expect to use another group's campfire ask first.

Gates and Entrances

Understanding the need to close gates is very important. You MUST leave gates and slip rails (timbers railings that you slide from one side to the other to gain entry) and any barriers as you find them. Land owners in most case allow hikers to cross their land; however once you open a gate you must insure the last person through knows it has to be closed, in fact iot is a good practise that whoever enters the gate waits behing to either close it again or leave it as it was found to avoid confusion. Walkers should never enter private property without permission and need to respect the rights of landholders and land managers.

Take Care While in the Australian Bush

While many of the Australian National Parks and wilderness areas are in pristine condition others are somewhat fragile and are in need of protection to guarantee they survive. Australia is one of the only countries in the world that has protective measures in place to guarantee our coastlines, rainforests and alpine areas continue to remain in good order. The flowing information is outlined to assist visitors to these areas assist in that preservation.

Campfires

Campfires fires are known to start bush fires causing catastrophic damage and unfortunately it is caused by the experienced and inexperienced bushwalkers. Much care should be taken before starting a camp fire to heat up the hot water for the billy. ('billy' - a container for the boiling of water for tea or coffee) Bushfires are started by walkers simply not taking proper care when starting a camp fire. Aussie trees like the Snow Gums are killed by blazing hot fires and mature trees can take hundreds of years to come back.

Sometimes simple pleasures like cooking a sausage on an open fire can turn very ugly. In most places from November through to the end of MArch it is illegal to start an open fire in the bush and evn gas bar-b-que fires are banned in some places.

Be careful with campfires
Collection of Firewood

A number of issues do arise from picking up fallen timber to use for a campfire. It should be remembered that the timber or firewood you collect could be someones home. Many small Australian native animals live in these fallen branches and in the colder regions of Australia where the growing season can be much shorter, these fallen tree branches and logs used as habitats can only be replaced very slowly.

If it is permissable before you start a fire select a location, preferably in a place where a fire has been before and try to keep it small, larger fires can lift many more hot ambers into to air, which can start bushfires. The fire does not need to have stones or rock placed around it as the stones only create more damage to the environment and do not burn your rubbish. Take any rubbish with you when you leave. You will also need to be mindful of which Australian State you are in, as each State can have different Regulations governing the lighting and use of fires.

VERY IMPORTANT

Before leaving the area you need to be totally sure the fire has been extinguished. Someone needs to put a hand into what was the fire and feel the ground under what is left of the coals!

If the area is still warm THE FIRE IS NOT OUT. Be sure to poor water over the area not just dirt. The fire must be out before you leave!

Where a 'NO CAMP FIRES ALLOWED!' sign is displayed the area is normally designated as fuel stove only areas, the idea being to lower the environmental damage associated with fires. Or it may even mean that no fires are allowed at all; read any signage carefully before setting up a camp and a fire.

WHAT TO CARRY

New walkers are known to carry much more than they need, where the more experienced, limit themselves to the necessary. Carry simple things like a very lightweight tent or flysheet. When camping use a cave or overhanging rock outcrop, except where there is indigenous rock art as dust and smoke fumes do damage.

You should not carry glass bottles, cans, jars or drink cartons lined with aluminium foil. Rresealable plastic containers that you can use over and over are much more sensible then left over rubbish can be pack into these containers and taken out with you. Any rubbish you create should NOT BE BURIED animals will dig it up, besides digging changes alters environment.

The saying goes "If you carried it in, then you can carry it out.

The observant walker will pick up rubbish left by others and take it out too!

SAFETY

Your safety is paramount, you will need to know what to do if an emergency occurs. It is a good idea to have an understanding of FIRST AID so you know how to handle bights, stings, illness and injuries. A first aid site worth a look ST JOHN'S FIRST AID

Walkers should carry clothing and equipment that suits the worst possible conditions you could encounter. Mobile phones are good if there is coverage in the area. A word of warning leave it turned off and use it only for summoning aid in an emergency.

Care to avoid the need for rescue because rescue operations can cause enormous damage to the enviorment.

RESEARCH

It is a good idea to remember many of Australia's national parks and wildness areas are places where weather conditions can change rapidly, one minute the sun is shining and next it can be snowing all in less than an hour. Rain in Australia is capable of very heavy downfalls and temperatures will crash to below freezing. So do a little research before you head into a situation that can change, gain an a good understanding of the local track conditions and carry suitable clothing and equipment. Check out the local WEATHER conditions.

LOST?

For the less experienced walker it is of the utmost importance that you and you party remain on the designated walking tracks, in the larger parks those straying from the track can find out very quickly how easy it is to become lost! You can be only a meter away from the track and NOT see it and with in a few steps walking in the wrong direction you can find yourself in trouble. If you are ever in this position you must remember NOT TO PANIC! Remain charm, stand still, if you are with a group, remain where you are and call out for assistance, others will find you more quickly if you remain in the same position. When you remain charm you will be able to think more carefully and then start to retrace your steps until you reach the last recognisable place, looking for your own foot prints. Don't climb the nearest tree this is dangerous and as all the trees will be about the same size and once up there, all you will see is the tops of other trees. It is more advantages to head for the nearest high point and then climb to the summit.

You might then be able to see roads and areas of habitation, following a flowing stream or creek will often lead you to a track.

FOOD

The food walkers carry into parks also requires some protection, don't leave food unattended. When preparing meals, it is essential to be watchful as small animals visit popular and unpopular campsites and even jump onto tables and snatch what they want, birds will swoop down a steal food as quick as a flash. Flies seem to come from everywhere.

Take care NOT to feed animals at any time, especially around campsites, once you start they will come back again and again often causing a nuisance to you and others as there dependence grows on the food supplied to them from walkers. Besides giving them food that is not from the natural environment can cause diseases in the population. With water, it is a good idea to boil it for up to ten minutes before it is consumed.

THE TOILET

Everyone has to go sooner or later, to use the toilet that is! In very simple terms - WHEN THERE IS A TOILET - USE IT! When you here the words "Rough it!" that does not mean any tree will do! Remember where you walk you move or change something, the same applies when the toilet is required, you need to understand others use the tracks including the animals that live it the area. When there is NO toilet, a hole is required so you will need to carry a fold up spade.

The toilet hole should be dug some 100 good paces or meters away form where you are camping and the same applies to watercourses. As with everything you touch you make a change so keep the hole to a size that can be filled without changing the environment to much. You must bury all faecal waste and paper, it is best to break it up and mix it with soil which helps decomposition and also discourage the animals. You will need to rap or package and take out sanitary pads, tampons and it must be said condoms need to go too,DO NOT BURY these items. When in snow dig deeper and bury waste, remember snow melts! Sometimes you might even have to carry waste to a suitable sewage area.

WASHING

The washing of clothes and of your self is a topic that that is important to mention. Our streams, creeks, lakes and rivers don't like soaps, detergent or toothpaste, even if they are biodegradable, all these things harm the water and all living things, like the fish, platypus, turtles, just to mention a few that live in or near the water. So please don't wash in the in these places. Collect the water and move to a place where after washing you area able to scatter the waist water so that it filters back through the soil to the water way or creek.

Looking forward to a new bushwalking tip? PLAN AHEAD!

Even if you are the adventurous type and like to do things a lone or with a special friend you do need to advise someone about the bushwalking journey you are about to undertake, make up a list detailing the following:

1. You are going to the bush or national park

2. The date you are leaving

3. The name of the national park or location

4. How you are getting to the destination

5. The arrival date

6. The number of people in the party

7. The route you ARE taking

8. When you plan on returning

9. The equipment you will be carrying

10. How you can be contacted (Satellite or Mobile phone)

11. Where a message can be left when you can't be contacted

12. A contact person at home that can be contact if the need arises

VERY IMPORTANT

Remember when to tell people you have arrived back.

Planning an overnight or long walking trip needs to be well organised, if the walk is one which has recognised campsites they need to be used and targeted for on the walk, try not to camp outside of these campsites. When the journey has no campsites it is very important that you select a an area suitable to set up in and a place where you are able to start a fire with out creating environmental damage and be sure the fire is completely extinguished and cleaned up before you leave the area.

The experienced walker knows what to carry, they understand that the less weight means a better over all journey. But walkers do need to take with them certain items and should try to minimise the impact on the environment by using things like a fuel stove rather than an open fire. A good quality tent with an attached floor and built in poles. A small fold up spade comes in handy for the digging the out door toilet and burying wastes.

Help keep the wilderness wild

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