Knowing Boundary Waters Wilderness Risks Improves Your Safety

By on April 4, 2016

The Boundary Waters and Quetico are beautiful regions with sights and activities for just about everyone. They are alluring places, particularly on a sunny, calm day. However, this is the wilderness and must be respected.

Recently, I read Lost in the Wild by Cary Griffith. The book follows two true stories about well-prepared wilderness travelers who run into trouble, but survive being lost in the wild of Canoe Country. The book is a great primer about what unexpected thing can happen and how to (or how not to) manage through troublesome situations.

We are often asked how safe it is to take a canoe trip into the wilderness. The answer is that there are risks in every aspect of life. But with a little planning and thought, you can expect a safe and rewarding trip.

However, things beyond our control can occur no matter where we are. This is when preparation becomes all-important. Here a few tips to insure that you will be able to handle and safely survive unexpected occurrences in the Boundary Waters.

  1. Make sure someone knows your route and itinerary. Many times, canoeists will alter their planned route due to weather or other issues. However, you usually remain in the same general area, so people can know where to look for you if needed. Also, people will know if you do not finish your trip on the planned date.
  2. If travelling alone, consider carrying a satellite phone. Even groups should consider this. Just make sure you know how to operate the phone! We recommend a satellite phone rather than a cell phone because cell coverage is spotty to non-existent in the Boundary Waters.
  3. Carry and know how to use navigation tools: waterproof maps, a compass and a GPS unit. It is a good idea for a group to have two sets of waterproof maps with them, as well as two compasses.
  4. Proper clothing is essential. Clothing needs change with the seasons. Remember that Canoe Country is pretty far north and weather can change quickly, particularly early and late in the season.
  5. Carry a survival / first-aid kit. In addition to a well-stocked kit in my canoe, I always have a lighter, a compass, a whistle, a knife, and a few water purification tablets in my pocket.

Talking about Canoe Country safety and survival is not supposed to scare you. Just the opposite – the more you know about the risks of wilderness travel, the more likely you will have a safe trek. I recommend reading Lost in the Wild. Understanding what happened to those two travelers will increase your knowledge about the wilderness and your enjoyment of this wild region.

Paddle On. Be Free.