campsite with tent and canoe

What to do when showers are closed

We’re thrilled to welcome campers back to parks, and we look forward to another wonderful summer of sunrise paddles and cozy campfires.

We know many of you have questions about this, and we’re so encouraged by how many people are committed to protecting each other and our environment for the future.

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we’ve heard:

Why aren’t showers open?

The health and well-being of visitors and staff will always be our number one priority as we decide how and when to open parks, facilities, and services.

At this time, Ontario Parks will be placing our cleaning and disinfection efforts on essential and high-use facilities and open public areas such as washrooms, outhouses and other high-touch surfaces. This will help our staff ensure that the enhanced cleaning protocols can be completed thoroughly.

Can I just take a “shower” in the lake?

Absolutely not. Not with soap, shampoo, or any other chemical products, at least.

In fact, if you “shower” in the lake or any other waterbody/shoreline, you might face fines, and you risk critically damaging your favourite park.

Why can’t I wash up in a lake?

Shower products are not safe for our waterways.

Many soaps and detergents contain phosphates. Phosphates in soaps and detergents provide the “muscle” for cleaning, removing films, sweat, and grease.

While phosphates do occur naturally in the environment, they are refined for use in cleaning products. Certain types of algae and aquatic plants require naturally occurring phosphorus to grow, however too much of it can also present problems.

An increase in phosphorus levels has the potential to throw off the balance in the waterway resulting in increased algae and aquatic plants, which in turn can negatively impact wildlife and recreational activities.

Can’t I just use biodegradable soap?

Biodegradable soap is not safe to use in a lake or river.

These products cannot break down properly if they are washed directly into a waterway. The actual breakdown in the environment must take place in the soil.

Remember: biodegradable does not necessarily mean environmentally friendly. Even the “natural” elements left behind from biodegradable soaps and detergents are an additive to our ecosystems, and can upset their natural balance.

Many people depend on waterways as a source of drinking water, and biodegradable products have the potential to impact the safety of drinking water supplies.

Can I shower on my campsite? I bought a neat hanging shower?

Unfortunately, no.

Showering outdoors on your campsite (or anywhere else in the park) could leave you facing fines. Here are a few more reasons why showering on your campsite is a bad idea:

  • soaps and other cleaning products are animal attractants. A shower isn’t worth a bear cruising by your campsite to borrow your conditioner
  • a season of showers could also destroy campsites, leaving them a puddly, muddy mess
  • damaging campsites or adding anything (even soapy water) to the ecosystem is against park regulations

And, of course, it’s all about protecting our ecosystems. Ecological integrity is Ontario Parks’ guiding principle.

So I can’t use the shower in my trailer?

If the shower is inside the trailer, and the water is collected in your tank, yes!  Your holding tanks must be emptied at the trailer sanitation station.

If the shower is outside the trailer, no!

Can I have a sponge bath on my site?

It’s all about the soap. If you’re sponging off on your campsite, and soap — even biodegradable soap — gets on the ground, that’s not okay. If you’re just using a soap-free water to wet your washcloth, that’s just fine.

Make sure the water is disposed of properly: dump it carefully down a vault privy or dispose of it at a trailer dumping station (depending on your park), just like you would your dishwater.

It seems like there just isn’t a good option for showering during my camping trip! How can I stay clean?

If you don’t have access to a shower, jumping in the lake is a great alternative for rinsing off after a long day of hiking, cycling or paddling, as long as you don’t use soap.

Scrub with just water and a washcloth to easily remove dirt and sweat.

But isn’t it really important to wash our hands?

Yes. We’re counting on people to be responsible when enjoying our parks, and continue to follow all of the public health advice, including washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and using hand sanitizer.

I’m not comfortable camping without access to showers.

We understand. It’s a challenging season, and some facilities just won’t be available.

Be a park protector!

As parks-lovers, it’s our job to keep our natural environment safe and do everything we can to protect it.

And don’t forget: where your actions may result in an adverse effect on the environment, you could be fined. Officers will be patrolling the park to provide information and ensure that everyone is doing their part to protect the beauty and integrity of our provincial parks.

For more information on facility closures due to COVID-19, visit our website.