The Public Access  Lighting fires 

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Right and Wrong in The

Right and wrong when Canoeing

Gliding along in silence over still waters and along wild shores. Canoes and kayaks bring you close to nature. Beyond every promontory, behind every bend in the river await new nature experiences. You can travel almost everywhere along our coastlines and in our lakes and waterways. But you're not alone. More and more people are discovering the joys of canoeing and kayaking. The more of us there are, the more important it is that we respect the rules of the wild. We are guests of nature and are obliged to show consideration for the environment. This is the fundamental principle of the Swedish Right of Public Access.


Observe but don't disturb

A black-throated diver (arctic loon) with young. An osprey circling high above the water. Perhaps a glimpse of a beaver on the water's edge. Animal life lends extra spice to your experience of the wilderness. Observe by all means - but make sure you don't disturb. Don't try to get close to the animals to photograph or see them better. Use binoculars and a telephoto lens instead. A canoe moves silently, and you may easily find yourself approaching too close to nesting birds on islands and along shores. Be extra careful during the spring and summer when the birds are laying eggs or have young. If the parents are frightened off the nest or the brood is scattered, the chicks may have a hard time surviving. Here are some tips to help you protect the wild animals you encounter:


Leave no traces on the campsite

You should preferably spend the night on a designated campsite, where you will find a fireplace, a waste bin and a privy. Otherwise select a location where you will not risk disturbing people living nearby. You should not stay at the same location for more than one or two nights without permission from the landowner. If you come in a large group you should ask for permission even for one night. Leave no traces of your stay on the campsite when you depart. Take all trash and litter with you, no matter how little. Remember that many people will come after you. A little litter from each one adds up to a lot with time. Do not cram garbage bags into overfull waste bins. This will attract animals, who will spread it around. It is better to take your garbage back with you until you can dispose of it properly.    Use the campsite toilets. If there aren't any, dig a small pit and fill it in carefully afterwards. Carry a small spade with you in the canoe for this purpose.

Make fires sparingly

Making fires is often forbidden during the summer. The risk of forest fire is great then, and you may not even make fires in the fireplaces at the campsites. You can find out whether fires are prohibited at the tourist office and at the canoe hire centre. Bring a small camping stove to cook on, you can always use that. If you have to make a fire, remember to select a suitable site: stone or gravel ground without nearby vegetation, near the water and with a wind direction that won't carry sparks over the forest. Do not make fires on the bare rock - it will crack! Twigs, branches and pine cones lying on the ground can be used for fuel. But it is forbidden to peel birch-bark or otherwise damage growing trees. Allow the fire to burn out and extinguish the embers thoroughly with water.


Be considerate on land as well

Do not trespass on homesites or farmland if you have to portage between waterways. Close gates behind you.    Respect signs prohibiting cars on private roads if you have to drive the canoe down to the water. And ask the landowner for permission before you park your car or caravan (house trailer) overnight on a private road.


About the Right of Public Access

In Sweden, everybody is entitled to enjoy the oppertunities offered by the countryside, an entitlement that is known as the Right of Public Access. It allows us to ramble freely in woods and over fields and meadows, to pick mushrooms, wild berries and flowers, provided they are not specially protected, and to go swimming and boating on lakes and watercourses.

But the Right of Public Access to the Countryside also involves responsibilities. It requires us to show care and consideration to land owners and others, and to animals, plants and wild life, particularly during the spring and the summer months when animals and birds have young and when vegetation is breaking into bud.

Although you do not always have to ask for permission to go ashore from a boat or pitch your tent, it is always a wise thing to do so. The land owner is then less likely to worry if he knows who it is that has pitched a tent at the fringe of the forest. And people who ask for permission are very seldom denied it.

You may perhaps wonder what you may and may not do as an individual visitor to the Swedish countryside? If you keep the following rules in mind you will be sure of keeping on the right side of Swedish laws and customs.

Enjoy yourselves in the wonderful Swedish countryside. It is a heritage to be enjoyed, but also to be preserved for coming generations.

Happy holiday!
© 1996 Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

Produced by Contactor marknadskommunikation AB.

Webmaster:, och

Updated: 13th June 1996.