This is one of my favorite scenes – not this one specifically, but more generally speaking a crackling campfire on a riverbank. I’m hard pressed to think of a more enduring totem of outdoor adventure, and to be sure I’ve spent some of the best hours of my life around one. Everyone loves a campfire! This particular image was captured years ago during a float camping trip on the Eleven Point River. The fire ring was already established, which meant using it for our fire was the method recommended by the river’s administering agency, in this case the US Forest Service.
Lately I’ve been thinking, though. How long had that fire ring been there? Given the constant fluctuation of a free flowing river it couldn’t have been long. Three months? Six? A year? That’s nothing in the life of a river, and considering how often humans pause there along their journeys…….well, there must have been thousands upon thousands of fire rings constructed then erased on that very spot. And what about other river banks? When we beach at a chosen campsite on any river how many fire rings do we count? Usually quite a few, and more often than not they’re full of ashes and charred pieces of wood, all of which is destined to go into the water. What impact do they have on the river? On the fish and other aquatic life that inhabit it? On us?
I was curious about the composition of ash, so I did what any scientifically challenged adventurer would do. I Googled it. Turns out ash contains all sorts of stuff, most of it quite harmless in small concentrations. However, in larger concentrations, like say the ashes and charred logs of thousands of fire rings? I honestly don’t know, but like I said, I’ve been thinking.
On permitted western rivers there are strict guidelines for campfires, one of which is the requirement that each party carry a fire pan. In case you’re not familiar it’s exactly what it sounds like, a pan that contains the campfire. There are all sorts of fire pans ranging from simple chicken feed pans to elaborate pieces of gear that also serve as Dutch Oven cooking stations and come with grills fit for a cattle drive. I’m not prepared to say fire pans should be required on our rivers, but I will say this. The Arkansas Adventuregram crew has started carrying one, and here it is.
We’ve found that not only does it soothe our at times admittedly challenged consciences, it also enhances our outdoor adventures. In fact, we’re quite taken with it! If you’d like you can read why here. https://aradventuregram.com/2019/10/09/pop-up-pit-fire-pan/ And, maybe you can start thinking too.
See you out there!