A University of Oregon fraternity was suspended after its members allegedly trashed a campsite at Shasta Lake in Northern California over the weekend, leaving behind piles of litter, feces and beer bottles and abandoning scores of tents.
Members of Oregon's Lambda Chi Alpha chapter are now under investigation for the weekend fiasco in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, according to Robin Holmes, the university's vice president for student life. The chapter's national organization also suspended all of its activities until the mess is addressed.
"The manner in which the Shasta-Trinity Forest area was left is disgraceful," Holmes said in a statement. "Trips to this area have become an annual event for fraternities and sororities all along the West Coast. It is one the University of Oregon does not sponsor or condone in any way."
Some 1,000 students had descended on Slaughterhouse Island during the May 21 weekend and covered nearly all of the half-mile-radius campground, according to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Phyllis Swanson. Additionally, some 60 houseboats were docked at the location, she said.
At the campsite, authorities found sleeping bags, nearly 100 tents, clothing, designer sandals, boxes of beer cans, chairs, unopened packages of food and ice chests, including one cooler painted with the name of the fraternity and the words "Do you wanna do some blow man?" Trash almost completely littered the water's edge.
"It was almost like aliens came down and sucked them out from where they were," Swanson said. "Things were just found where they were last seen. I mean shoes were left behind."
About 25 forest service employees removed up to 30 yards of trash, she said. The university, students and citizens offered to help clean up the mess, but rangers had to turn them away because of the "biohazards" found at the lake, officials said.
Condoms, tampons and lots of human feces were strewn about the campground, Swanson said. There are no restroom facilities at the island, so it appeared the visitors created one under a tent.
"It was everywhere," Swanson said of the human waste.
Photographs, she said, "don't do it justice."
In addition to the time and expense required to clean up after the students, rangers were also concerned about the impact the mess would have on wildlife. Swanson said that deer had been observed eating food left behind at the campground.
A day after the bacchanalia, park visitor Jennifer Vick Cox posted photographs of the trashed lakeside on Facebook. They have since gone viral.
Cox wrote, "Here is what a group of University of Oregon students left (they are gone) on Slaughterhouse Island on Lake Shasta. Way to represent your school."
A fraternity spokesman told The Times that only about a dozen members of Oregon's Lambda Chi Alpha chapter went to the lake.
The fraternity said it was working with the university to investigate who was involved in the "absolutely unacceptable" incident.
"Unfortunately, the individuals who committed the destruction to Lake Shasta recently seen on social media did not uphold [our] values," the fraternity said in a statement. "We will, in no uncertain terms, hold the individuals who did this accountable."
The lake has served as a getaway for college students since the 1990s.
After every annual visit, which usually occurs on Mother's Day weekend, rangers typically find "party trash," Swanson said.
But this year's trash took the cake.
"This is by far the most I have ever seen," she said.
U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officials are now investigating.
Swanson said she is talking to Oregon school officials and other universities about educating students to clean up after weekend festivities.
Rangers don't want to ban students because their visits stimulate the local economy, Swanson said. But she offered a friendly reminder: "You can pack it up, you can pack it out."
"This is our playground, so please take care of it," she said.
Sgt. Rob Sandbloom, who oversees the Shasta County Sheriff's Office's boat safety unit, said deputies usually walk the docks and remind visitors about boat safety. When deputies see trash flung from boats, they politely ask boaters to clean up after themselves, he said.
Only a few citations were issued last weekend, mostly for boating-related violations.
Sandbloom has seen his fair share of trash at the lake, but he said last weekend's event was the worst.
"Just because it's outdoors, it doesn't make it right," he said. "I don't know if it's a generational thing or if this group just doesn't respect the rest of mankind."
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1:40 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details and background information.
8:35 a.m.: This story was updated with a statement from the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.