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Practice Safety, Environmental Responsibility During Eclipse

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Warren Whitney. Photo courtesy of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
By Warren Whitney

The April 8 total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be viewed by millions, many of whom will flock to remote wilderness and rural areas, including much of the Northeast — an exciting moment, to be sure, but also one that warrants responsible use of our wild spaces, and some advance planning.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) spans 740 miles of waterways and trails from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine; the entire trail aligns with the path of the solar eclipse. As the nonprofit responsible for stewardship of this trail, and an organization that promotes paddling to people of all backgrounds, we’re excited about the eclipse. We also strongly urge people to take extra heed of ‘Leave No Trace’ principles, as unusually high traffic can have a negative impact on the environment.

If you are planning to visit one of the communities across the Northern Forest in the path of totality, be sure to make a lodging reservation and check to make sure the place you plan to camp is open before you go. Many businesses close for mud season, and many of the lodging establishments that are open are fully booked. Remember that many people have the same idea as you do, and roads, restaurants, and other businesses will be working hard to accommodate everyone.

Those considering venturing into the wilderness to view the eclipse should confirm whether trails are open; state environmental agencies across the Northeast have already announced the closure of some trails, and users will want to confirm access beforehand. It is mud season in the Northeast, and any traffic on sodden ground can do damage to trails. Some privately owned recreational areas have also opted to limit access during the eclipse.

‘Leave No Trace’ principles implore outdoor enthusiasts to plan ahead, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others — all of which apply to paddlesports as much as they do hiking and camping. You can learn more about minimizing your environmental impact at lnt.org

Viewing the eclipse from the water would be a unique and low-impact experience. However, despite warmer than average temperatures, the waters of the Northern Forest region will be cold in early April. If you do plan to watch from the water, it’s important to brush up on your cold water prep. For tips on gear, we encourage you to watch NFCT Board Member Danny Mongno’s presentation from 2021: bit.ly/coldwaterpaddling. You can also visit northernforestcanoetrail.org and search “cold water” for a series of blog posts on safe early season paddling.

We encourage you to enjoy this historic eclipse. We hope this occasion inspires more people to embrace and enjoy the outdoors — but being responsible and safe is paramount. And don’t forget your eclipse glasses!

Warren Whitney is chair of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Board of Directors. The NFCT is a nonprofit organization that maintains and promotes the 740-mile water trail that runs from Old Forge, NY, to Fort Kent, ME, and connects New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. The trail showcases the mix of landscapes and communities currently lining the traditional routes used by Indigenous peoples, settlers, and guides. It is the longest inland water trail in the nation and consists of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities, and 65 portages. To learn more, visit northernforestcanoetrail.org.

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