I think your best bet would be to avoid putting as little outside substances as possible in the river. Forgo shampoo and soap, if you can. If the river has any rules about swimming, you should obey those rules. Finally, be aware that the river may have various impurities in it–such as sediment or beaver poop– or even have waste dumped into it via paper mills and the like. You may not emerge from the river any cleaner than when you entered it.
There are eco friendly items that can be used in the river that will not harm wild life. You can use biodegradable and eco friendly soap or you can forgo the river all together and get dry shampoo and conditioners. The website below has great ideas and links to purchase eco friendly items for camping and hiking trips.
There is NO environmentally product to put in a river. Every soap, shampoo…. whether biodegradable or not is NOT OK in water. I worked for 5 years in USFS Wilderness areas and it was a Code of Federal Regulation to bath, wash self or dishes, go to the bathroom, do anything… 100 feet from a water source. Everything we do soaks into the ground and someone figured that 100 feet would be a safe distance for the soaps to percolate down into the soil and for the spreading to not get into a spring, creek, river, or lake.
Just remember: biodegradable does NOT mean OK in the river. Do you think a salmon wants Dr. Braunners? Was it a naturally occuring substance in the river? No. Don’t let companies fool you. Bathing in the river means just be natural and dip yourself in.
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