We should not have to discuss things like this but apparently we do. Nature is a privilege. Full stop.
I think the pandemic was an opportunity for many to get out and explore nature more. All of a sudden, people were forced to find new activities that didn’t involve the hospitality industry, so people flocked to the great outdoors. Last year I remember thinking it was great to see people getting out into nature more. Well humans, you all let me down! Abuse of nature, littering and overtourism is not what we all had in mind.
Bash Bish Falls, Massachusetts
I’ll give a little back story to what spawned this PSA. Two weeks ago, my friends and I spent a lovely weekend camping in the Copake, NY area. We went to a farmers market, hiked up to a sunset lookout, hit up a distillery, cooked some delicious meals and relaxed by the campfire. On the last day, we decided that since we were close enough, we’d drive over and hike the 1.5 mile hike to Bash Bish Falls. This waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Massachusetts, coming in at 80-feet high and I’ve had it on my list to visit for a while! This hike basically straddles the NY and Mass border so we parked in the New York parking lot and began our hike.
We had heard from others that the falls and all the water was closed off to people but we didn’t realize why until we got there. Massive signs erected at the entrance spelled out the extensive rules for the area now:
- Pets on leash always. Clean up after your pet and remove waste off site.
- Entering the water is prohibited. No swimming or diving.
- No rock climbing.
- No picnicking, grilling or fires.
- No alcohol, or glass containers.
- No coolers.
- No trash cans. Please carry-in, carry-out all trash and personal items.
- No drones.
These signs were posted every 5 feet on the hike up to the falls. No swimming, no swimming, no swimming. We watched as two girls climbed down the rocks and jumped in the river and a park ranger came out of nowhere yelling at them to get out.
“You have to get out. We’re not allowing this anymore. People ruined it for everyone last year. They completely trashed the place so now everyone’s lost their priveledges.” he explained, clearly upset about it.
The Unexpected Consquence: Overtourism
Before last year, MOST people who went out in nature knew better and did what they could to protect the environment. When a whole slew of new people started exploring these places for the first time, they treated it like a bar or a concert. Packing in coolers of alcohol, starting campfires, leaving trash everywhere, recklessly climbing on dangerous rocks, etc. The park had no other option than to shut it down for everyone.
Maybe it’s the same crowd that throws their beer cups on the ground at country concerts because they know a clean up crew is following behind but there’s no clean up crew in the middle of our parks. Your trash just sits there until some animal gets it or some poor park rangers get fed up enough to shut the whole thing down. Its’ unfathomable to most of us nature lovers but here we are.
Overheard at the Top
As we arrived to the top of the hike, the first thing we noticed was a cop car and a bunch of jersey barriers. Not exactly what you expect to see deep in the woods of a State Park. Though you could still stand at the top and see the beautiful falls, you used to be able to walk down to the base of it and witness it from an up close perspective too. The park had completely closed off the entry to the stairs down to the lower falls.
The overwhelming vibe was disappointment. We felt very disappointed while walking up and we could tell that others were too. Nobody really stayed there long, you pretty much got your photo and turned around and walked back down. The reviews on apps like Alltrails were filled with pure anger at the individuals who ruined this for all of us.
If you’re one of the partiers, swimmers, litterers, or just jerks who came during Covid and treated this place like your own personal pool party, THIS IS YOUR FAULT. RESPECT NATURE, ITS NOT THAT HARD!!!https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/massachusetts/bash-bish-falls-trail
“Angry park rangers. Not worth the hike.” “Bummed.” “Shoutout to the litterbugs for ruining nature for us.”
It’s a damn shame because this used to be a hike with nothing by 5 star raving reviews.
Just one Example of Overtourism
This particular hike is just one example of the complete mistreatment of nature recently. Google National Parks 2021 and there is one headline after another of the unforseen consequences of people actually getting out to explore nature.
“Disneyland-like crowds could cause some parks to close their gates.”
“National Parks inundated with trash as visitor numbers spike.”
“Post-pandemic overcrowding of national parks causing bigger problems than just long lines”
The last article discusses how overcrowding is actually damaging the shallow root system of giant sequoias because people aren’t sticking to the raised walkways that were built.
It’s genuinely devastating. The concept of overtourism has focused on tourists affects on locals and their environment but now we’re doing it to our own country too. The National Parks were created to share and protect our beautiful country but it’s being abused and will most likely have lasting effects.
Effects on Boondocking
Another long time privilege for travelers is a type of camping called boondocking. This consists of camping on public lands for free as long as you were willing to pack in and pack out your food and waste. There are no water or electrical hookups, or trash receptacles at boondocking sites so you are completely disconnected in nature.
Apparently people are abusing this and causing boondocking sites to be shut down as well. They’re finding vandalism, litter and even human waste. It’s just incomprehensible that people can treat nature this way, knowing it will ruin the experience for the next person behind them.
Overtourism has been a concern and an issue for a long time but it’s come to a whole new level now. Obviously people should be allowed to travel and explore but shouldn’t it go without saying to respect nature and not to completely trash it? National Parks are doing their best to control the crowds but implementing reservation systems and timed entrees. But we as travelers need to do our part also.
I urge you to read into Leave No Trace before heading out on your adventures this summer. Leave No Trace: Center for Outdoor Ethics was created as a set of guidelines for people to recreate in nature in a way that will protect the environment and also protect the experiences for future travelers. They consist of 7 Principles that can be applied across the board, no matter what activity you’re doing.
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What you Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
We aren’t asking much. Just be better. Save some nature for the rest of us.
Have you been noticing any of these issues in spots that you frequent? Has there been any restrictions or rules implemented to help stop the problem of overtourism? Any suggestions on what we can do as individuals to fix the problem? Leave them down in the comments below. Until next time…
Stay Wild, Adventure On and BE BETTER!
Need help planning an adventure of your own? Interested in learning more about eco-tourism? Check out InMotion Adventures and find out what we can do for you! In the meantime, check out some related posts for some travel ideas!