Safety Tips for Area Paddlers

Safe practices are crucial for successful recreational experiences and adventures. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) has issued a series of tips for paddlers, urging safety as people get out on the water this season. The recommendations are aimed at canoeists and kayakers on the 740-mile long water trail, but are common sense tips for all boaters this season. NFCT encourages all outdoor enthusiasts to be safety aware, whether in the wilderness or at a trailhead.

Recommendations include:

Life Jacket: Always wear a properly fitting life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device) when on the water. Always.

Prepare: Up-to-date maps and the ability to use them are essential, as are proper clothing for all conditions. Have a compass and know how to use it. (Using a GPS tracking device is convenient but should be a backup, not a sole source.)

Plan: Choose a conservative route that takes into account your own or your group’s ability, fitness, and experience. Be prepared with an alternative route and use it if you have to.

Share Your Plan: Tell your friends or family where you are going and how long you plan to be out. Sign in at register boxes when possible as these records can help in the event of an emergency.  Establish a procedure to follow if you fail to check-in or show up when expected.

Stay Alert: It is far easier to avoid a dangerous situation than it is to get out of one. Keep a keen eye on the weather, as paddling conditions can change rapidly with even slight fluctuations in wind and rain. Scout rapids and be aware of dams that require a portage. Use extra caution if paddling alone.

Portage Safely: Use extreme caution when carrying gear or your boat across or along roads and in town.  Be visible and give yourself more room to maneuver than you think you need.

Avoid Theft:  Lock your vehicle at the trailhead and leave no valuables inside. When portaging, carry your passport, ID cards, car keys and any valuables on your person at all times; do not leave these items unattended. If your portage involves multiple carries, avoid leaving your boat and gear in plain sight.

Don’t Rely on Your Cell Phone: There are intermittent locations and longer stretches of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail where cell coverage does not yet exist.


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