From Trails to Turbidity: Recreational Impacts on a Northwestern Illinois Watershed

Authors: Madison Vandersee*,
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Recreational and Sport Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: recreation, water quality, turbidity, land use, land management practices, ecosystem functions
Session Type: Illustrated Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Canal St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Controlled outdoor recreation has greatly increased in the last 100 years prompting studies into the effects recreation has on stream health. Ecosystem functions can be altered by erosion rates and pollution levels within watersheds, but there is inadequate literature reporting on case studies of recreational activity and effects the land use has on water quality. This study is based on the Carroll Creek watershed in Carroll County, Illinois. Carroll Creek is a tributary stream of the Mississippi River, highlighting the issue of a non-point source pollutant into the perspective of a much larger area. Turbidity levels were studied with a focus on YMCA Camp Benson (YCB), a 113-acre resident camp. Turbidity is a major concern as wearing of frequently used trails and disturbance of land from alterations on the property have been observed. Increased turbidity levels in stream systems result in negative effects on the health of aquatic ecosystems by transporting pollutants downstream and obstructing sunlight from reaching aquatic flora and fauna. As turbidity increases, negative effects are recorded on land and within the creek itself. Results indicate that turbidity levels are increasing within YCB’s property but seem to drop slightly beyond the property boundary. Conclusions about YCB’s property on the water quality within Carroll Creek will guide future best management practices which can be implemented and interpreted for other properties to merge land management practices into recreational land use.

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