Lean-to Etiquette

by Adirondack Life | August 2019, Recreation

The vast majority of lean-tos managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are free, available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to reserve a lean-to, check out Adirondak Loj, on Heart Lake; a few state campgrounds, such as Tioga Point, on Raquette Lake, include lean-to sites.

Often, says Ranger McCone, “Lean-tos that are harder to reach are treated with the most respect.” But all of these places need our courtesy and care.

The 10 Lean-to Commandments

Thou Shalt

Keep it clean, even pristine. This includes the land around the lean-to.

Share the structure. Most hold about six adults. McCone says, “You can’t lay claim to a lean-to for your own private use.” If a lean-to is at capacity, deploy your Plan B for another campsite.

Use the outhouse if your lean-to has one. If not, McCone advises, “Choose a spot at least 150 feet from the lean-to and any waterway. Bury waste six to eight inches deep and cover it well.”

Make your campfire in the pit provided.

Carry it in, carry it out.

Thou Shalt Not

Carve the wood, write graffiti or deface the structure in any way. “Lean-tos are hard to maintain, harder to build and deserve our respect,” she says.

Pitch a tent inside the lean-to. “This is about the open-air camping experience,” according to McCone. And the DEC prohibits pitching a tent next to a lean-to in order to increase capacity.

Burn garbage, cans, plastic or treated wood.

Leave food and beverages in the lean-tos. “Leaving food in the lean-to is the worst idea, and animals learn from our habits,” she says. It may be a chipmunk this time and a bear the next.

Destroy the lean-to journal.

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