Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman

Water Sources on the A.T.

By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton
Nearly every August, conditions become drier and drier along the A.T., leading to water-resupply issues for hikers, particularly in the mid-states and southern New England. This information is currently posted on ATC’s Trail Conditions webpage: 

“A regional drought in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions is exacerbating normal seasonal droughts. Please treat water sources listed in your guidebook as 'seasonal' or 'intermittent' as dry. Bring extra water receptacles for these areas and top them off when water is available!”

 Since it was conceived and constructed more than 75 years ago, the Appalachian Trail has relied on various water sources for hikers, including undeveloped springs, springs that are nominally improved, streams, rivers, and other open-water sources. Hikers expect that water will be available at reasonable intervals along the Trail (including locations within reasonable walking distance of overnight facilities) and that water sources will be adequately identified.
ATC has long obligated itself and the A.T. maintaining clubs to mark adequate water supplies: “The Appalachian Trail shall be continuously and neatly marked using standard techniques in such a manner that the hiker unfamiliar with the area can discern the direction of the route and the location of drinking water and facilities.” (Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance, Second edition, 2000).
For many years, ATC policy has required identification of water supplies for hikers and encouraged protection of existing water supplies by careful location and design of trails and sanitation facilities (see Drinking Water 1993).
The policy states that ATC does not and cannot guarantee water quality from any source along the Trail, that all water sources should be considered unprotected, and that water from these sources should be boiled, filtered, or chemically treated before use. This warning is stipulated in every A.T. Guidebook, on posted signs, and on the website.
ATC and local Trail clubs have seven “water systems” as defined by the EPA and the U.S. Public Health Service (see" What's a Water System" at right). A simple pipe placed in a stream to aid in collecting water, for example, is not considered a “system.”

ATC oversees water testing and any required treatments to meet drinking water standards at the ATC-run Scott Farm (Pennsylvania), at the Shenandoah Campsite, Ralph Peak Hikers Cabin, Morgan Stewart and Wiley shelter sites in New York, and at Ten Mile River Shelter and campsite and Silver Hill campsite in Connecticut. Quarterly testing for coliforms (intestinal bacteria from mammals) is required at those locations, as are other mitigation measures to ensure meeting drinking water standards. 
Due to the high standard requirements, ATC declared a moratorium on new water systems in 1993. However, that position may need to be reconsidered in the future, as the weather becomes drier and water availability decreases Trailwide—as forecast by climate scientists.
We welcome your insights, comments, and questions.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is now an ATC consultant contributing to The Register

"The Register" Blog

ATC has launched a new resource: The Register Blog!
The Register will remain an e-newsletter publication, supplemented by the blog. The blog will include modern videos of best practices, highlights of moments in Trail-building history,  social media and news updates from the Trail clubs, and opportunities for discussion.  

Check it out and let us know what you think at

Boundary Blurb

A.T. Crossings in Vermont

Along the A.T. corridor in Vermont, a hiker may encounter two-hundred-year-old carriage roads that are still on town maps or even snowmobile trails permitted by the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), the land-managing agency.

Adam Fryska collecting trail data (photo by Garrett Fondoules)

Corridor monitors come across these trails while hiking the Trail and maintaining the boundary, but have had limited tools to determine what the trails are—and whether they are supposed to be there. So, ATC Boundary Technicians Garrett Fondoules and Adam Fryska spent two months this summer mapping all crossings of the Trail and connecting trail networks within the A.T. corridor in Vermont.

In the 67 miles that they hiked south from Norwich to VT Route 140, they collected accurate spatial information on the locations of 152 separate trails using Trimble GPS units. They recorded as much as they could determine about each trail, describing width, any signage, and who and what is using or could potentially use it.

This information and the map that they made will help ATC’s New England corridor stewardship program determine which trails are encroachments and then to work with the Green Mountain Club and GMNF to address them. 

Thanks to Garrett and Adam for a successful project that helps to safeguard the A.T. corridor.

Alison Scheiderer
Land Protection Associate
ATC New England Regional Office
Stream near Raven Rocks, VA (photo by Olivia Delush)
What's a Water System?
(from ATC Drinking Water Policy)

Water along the Trail is available for hikers from two sources:

1. Natural or backcountry water sources, which are naturally occurring surface-water sources (including springs and seeps) that are undeveloped or minimally improved. Minimal improvements include construction of small catchment basins or other primitive collection devices that clearly do not indicate to the user that water is being provided from a developed, protected water system.

2. Water systems, which typically are engineered systems that transport, store, or deliver water for human consumption. Improvements, such as wells, service connections, pumps, hand pumps, holding tanks, faucets, or spigots usually indicate that water is being provided through a water system.
Preventing Tick-Borne Disease on the Appalachian Trail

Tick-Borne Disease on the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has partnered with Insect Shield, tick researcher Karl Ford, and Lyme disease survivor/awareness advocate Logan McCulloch to bring you these videos highlighting effective tick bite prevention.

More than 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses every year. Taking precautions against tick bites is essential for minimizing your chances of infection.

Click on the images above or use these links to watch the videos:
Preventing Tick-Borne Disease on the Appalachian Trail

Expert Opinions on Tick Bite Prevention on the Appalachian Trail

Toolkit for Trail Clubs

A.T. club managers and volunteers - this web page is for you! 

From back issues of The Register  to a maintainer reference library, ATC policies, local management planning, information on managing volunteers, and more—the Toolkit is the best place to find resources quickly.

Share the Wealth...

...of information found in The Register. 

The Register is intended for Trail volunteers and managers. It began as a printed newsletter, then moved online, and is now emailed monthly. The image above is from the April 1978 inaugural issue. Email issues are posted in the Trail Club Toolkit and can be found here.

Please forward this issue to Trail maintainers and anyone interested in the stewardship of the Trail and encourage them to subscribe by sending their first and last names and email address to

Volunteer of the Month

“Don’t work alone!” says Tom Gorrill of the Maine A.T. Club. “Reach out to friends, acquaintances, and youth groups that are not yet involved with the Trail. Bringing them along on a day work trip is a great way for them to become more comfortable and get to know you and the rest of the group.

Becoming involved in a group you are not familiar with can be intimidating, so be sure to make new volunteers feel welcome and valued.” 

(Read more about Tom here

2016 ATC Meetings

Central and Southwest Virginia Regional Partnership Committee
October 1

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
October 15
Soak Ash Creek Crew Basecamp, 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
New England Regional Partnership Committee
Meeting and Hike

October 21-22
Crawford Notch, NH

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
October 22
Hamburg, PA

ATC Stewardship Council
October 27-28
Harpers Ferry, WV

ATC Board of Directors
October 28-29
Harpers Ferry, WV
The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

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