Leave No Trace is the most important idea to understand when you visit any wilderness or natural area. It means that you leave the area as close to the way you found it — or, even better!
Here are some in-depth examples of ways to practice the “Leave No Trace” minimum-use philosophy on Cumberland Island National Seashore.
So. If you bring snack wrappers or drink bottles, you take them out with you.
Visitors to Cumberland must be extra diligent to Leave No Trace and minimize their impact given the Island’s Wilderness and proximity to our rivers and ocean. We all know how long trash takes to decompose, but it also gets into our water systems (including the ocean). Even worse, small animals and marine life will often try to eat it, and it can kill them.
Remember…whatever you bring onto the island with you, you must bring out! This is also mandatory — there are no public waste receptacles on the island.
For a day hike on Cumberland Island, that’s easy; campers face more challenges.
Animals on the island are wild. Leaving food remnants – or feeding the wildlife – causes them to break the natural cycle of finding native food sources. It also creates a dependency on food that is brought by guests.
This means that if you are collecting things from nature, take only enough for yourself – leave the rest.
You found wild blackberries! Yum! But remember that they are a food source for the animals who can’t go to a grocery store, like most of us do.
Picking “a few flowers” doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? If you only picked a few flowers, it wouldn’t; but, if every single visitor “just takes a few,” a more significant impact will result. Consider taking a picture or sketching it instead!
Allow other visitors to experience the thrill of discovery: the best things to take home from a trip to Cumberland Island are your memories. Before taking anything else, please remember that some items may not be removed from a National Seashore. Read full restrictions for Cumberland Island National Seashore here.
Holes on the beach are a hazard for adult sea turtles coming ashore to nest, as well as hatchlings headed towards the water!
If they fall in, it takes a LOT of energy to get out – if they are able to do so at all! Typically, they fall in headfirst and die. They lack the capability to back up — as well as the strength to climb out of holes.
Any obstacles that sea turtles face on the beach have the potential to alter their perception of the nesting habitat. This can force them to nest elsewhere, too close to the water, or abandon their purpose altogether.
Every creature has a right to be there; you are a privileged guest. Whether it’s the dung beetle to the alligator, you are a visitor to their home.
Sea Camp and Stafford campsites offer fire rings, but campfires are not permitted at any of the Wilderness campsites.
Music and speaking loudly disturbs wildlife — and the experience for other visitors who are seeking quiet. Always consider how your experience is affecting the way others enjoy theirs.
When breaking down camp, take time to naturalize the site. In the most basic sense, this means making it look like you were never there!
For kids, it helps to make a game out of it. Before departure from your area, ask your young campers and hikers to try and completely “erase” any indication humans have been there. This can be more challenging than it sounds!
We’re often contacted by visitors who have witnessed damage to the island’s ecosystem, or blatant disregard of policy protections. We encourage you to report these to the National Park Service and also complete this form.
Thank you for your respectful stewardship of Cumberland Island.