staff canoeing towards sea plane

Planes, paddles and portages: a journey of garbage

This is a story about garbage.

It wasn’t a quick journey. It took a plane ride, some paddling in a canoe, portaging, more paddling, another plane ride, and a drive on the highway.

This garbage was left in Algonquin Provincial Park’s remote backcountry, something that, unfortunately, happens far too often.

An unwelcome package

It started with an email from a park visitor who discovered a sleeping bag full of rotting garbage on a backcountry campsite. Leaving animal attractants like rotting garbage is a food reward for wildlife, including bears.

And we don’t want to encourage bears to return to campsites in search of food.


In response to the visitor’s report, a backcountry ranger team was assigned to the clean-up task.

The journey begins

Our rangers decided to photo-document the journey to share what it takes to remove garbage from the backcountry.

Our rangers arrived at the Smoke Lake Hangar, and loaded up their gear on the Turbo Beaver plane.

staff near plane

Once they arrived on the lake, the next phase of the journey included paddling to the portage landing.

staff portaging garbage
Not a fan of portaging canoes? Imagine portaging garbage!

Thanks to the directions provided in the customer’s email, the rangers located the trash quickly.

Unfortunately, in the summer heat, the sleeping bag was quite fragrant…

staff portaging garbage
Garbage removal by plane is neither efficient nor cost-effective. Please don’t leave anything behind when backcountry camping

For the last phase of the journey, the garbage was loaded into a park truck to be driven to the nearest waste sorting facility.

staff hauling garbage out of truck


The end of the journey for this bag of garbage.

Unfortunately, our rangers regularly encounter garbage and broken and/or abandoned equipment on almost every maintenance trip they do.

staff throwing out garbage


Food left in fire pits, full coolers, a barbecue with an entire bag of charcoal, ripped tarps, and many, many broken camp chairs.

Our backcountry rangers want you to remember a few things:

food barrel

Pack food items strategically,  and look for ways to reduce food packaging.

Non-burnable garbage must be packed out, so bring a sealable bag and store it in your bear hang during your trip.

Never leave food items or garbage in the fire pit.

For every item you pack, ask yourself: do I truly need that item, and do I want to carry it on my back for the duration of my trip?

Backcountry equipment is specialized, and is most often made with lightweight materials. What you bring to a campground may not be practical for backcountry camping. Leave the charcoal barbecue and coolers at home!

Quality equipment is often worth the investment. Our rangers often find equipment that failed its owners and was abandoned in the middle of the backcountry. Poorly-made chairs and tents are regular culprits.

Remember: as park-lovers, it’s our responsibility to dispose of all our garbage items correctly!