Wilderness Emergency Procedures

Wilderness Emergency Procedures

A common concern for those who take a canoe trip in the BWCA and Quetico Park is what to do if there is an emergency. Here are a few procedure to help you in the event of an emergency while on your canoe trip. Please keep in mind that in most instances you are not more than a day away from medical assistance.

Even in the most remote areas of either wilderness, there are usually other people passing by. If the injured person can not be moved, send several messages out with other parties in the area. Once a message reaches a Canadian Ranger station or outfitter, help is dispatched immediately. Visible distress signals that can be picked up by overhead float planes are; three small campfires placed in a triangle, anchoring a canoe (if you have more than two canoes in your party) in the middle of the lake, or making a large fire and placing green branches on it to create a smoky fire.

If the injured person can walk without creating additional harm to themselves, take your two best paddlers, raingear, a supply of food and paddle them out to the nearest ranger station (usually a day or less away). Traveling with your best paddlers and an empty canoe will be much quicker. Once the injured person has received medical attention, the paddlers (and injured person if well enough) can rejoin the group.

A popular item that works in a very limited area is cellular phones. Some visitors do carry them along on trips, but frequently find that cellular phones will only work on their first and last days (due to the high cliffs, mineral deposits and location of cells in our area). Cellular phones should not be relied on as your only means of assistance. More relaiable are satellite phones, which are available from CBO.

Some of the most common minor injuries that occur during the canoeing season are; cut feet due to swimming or walking without shoes, fish hooks, campfire burns, sunburn, dehydration and pulled muscles. Both minor and major injuries can be avoided by canoeing, portaging and relaxing within your own limits or capabilities. If you aren't a rock climber or cliff diver prior your wilderness adventure, don't decide to try it out on your trip. Watch your water intake (most adults require at least two quarts per day), use sunscreen and portage at an easy pace. Trying to carry too much or doing a portage carrying everything in one trip is guaranteed to pull a muscle, twist an ankle or create a miserable canoe camper. Second trips on portages take a bit longer, but the opportunity to see that grouse or rapids you missed on the first trek across will more than make up for the lost time. You are on your vacation - a time you have set aside especially for you to do something fun and enjoyable.

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