Updated: May 17
Authored by Nikki Winkel
Water crossings are an iconic attraction for ATV lovers. But as enjoyable as they are, water crossings leave a devastating effect on their environment. The goal of this reading is to present those effects and reveal the importance of avoiding water crossings to promote better environmental responsibility.
Crossing a stream or driving through water on an ATV can be exciting to a thrill seeker. While driving past a body of water, the temptation to cross can be overwhelming. Whether it be for the fun of crossing or the fun on the other side, water crossings should be avoided at all costs. There are also safety risks associated with water crossings, DRR USA recommends that their two-wheel drive models never cross water in general.
Beyond the safety risks, there is a significant environmental cost to water crossings. A quote from Transport Canada outlines one,
“When crossing water bodies, riders often choose to cross at the shallowest point. Unfortunately this poses some of the greatest risks to fish and their habitats… Gravel areas with shallow flowing water provide the eggs with clean and well-oxygenated water needed for their early growth. Driving over these areas can compact the gravel and cause siltation that may kill fish eggs and young fish, and at a minimum, will reduce the quality of the overall habitat. The various plants in and along the shoreline of lakes and streams also provide important spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for many fish species.”
A second area of impact is the fuel, oil, pollutants, and grease from the engine and tires that enter the water when driving through water crossings. Transport Canada supports the guidelines of “Ensure that your ATV or OHV does not have any fuel or oil leaks. Never wash your ATV or OHV in the water body since this can pollute the water.” The alternative and zero risk solution is to simply steer clear of water crossings whenever possible. Battery powered four wheelers also provide a solution to leaking fuel and oil into the water, because there is no engine there is no risk of fuel leaks.
Riders should always inspect their gas vehicles for leaks before they go out, because leaks into the ground still have negative effects on the environment. The Center for Biological Diversity explains,
“Off-road vehicles expel 20 to 30 percent of their oil and gasoline unburned, releasing it into air and water. With off-road vehicle use exceeding 80 million visitor days in national forests alone, tens of millions of gallons of gasoline and motor oil likely enter the soils and waters of our public lands each year as a result of inefficient combustion and emissions.”
Undoubtedly, washing your vehicles in natural waters such as streams, rivers, or lakes, would release more pollutants than a simple pass through. However, we should protect our water from all pollutants possible. We should be especially dedicated to preserving our natural bodies of water within our national forests. According to The Center for Biological Diversity “This is significant because forests are the largest and most important water source in the United States: more than 60 million Americans in 3,400 communities from 33 states get their drinking water from watersheds that originate on our national forests and grasslands.”
Any runoff from an engine or residue from gas vehicles in general can be eliminated with the use of an electric four wheeler like DRR USA’s vehicles. You can find more information about them here https://www.drrusa.com/adult-electric-atvs-utvs-motorcycles
Finally, water crossings damage waterways by causing rutting, bank erosion, and turbidity. A study done comparing a stream with ATV path crossings and one without states
“In summary, preliminary analysis of paired watersheds indicates that the Wolf Pen Gap Trail system appears to have had detectable negative impacts on the structure and habitat quality of stream pools… These impacts are reflected in an increase in fine sediments in pools along with a decrease in pool depths and volumes compared to pools in basins unaffected by ATV usage.”
Combined, these three lasting effects on the environment take a significant toll on wildlife, their habitat, and our drinking water. ATV water crossings can be easily avoided, and if crossing is necessary to the community, there are solutions that allow crossing with minimal effects such as bridges and culverts. Weighing the cost and benefits to water crossings, it should be clear as to why we should strive to be more responsible riders. We all love the thrill and fun of water crossings, but the lasting and devastating effects they leave on the environment should be enough to encourage us to seek our fun elsewhere.
For other articles and information on DRR USA’s electric ATV’s visit www.drrusa.com/blog/categories/ev-atv