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Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority warns paddlers to know your limits

May 11, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

With spring weather now here, many people are heading out to enjoy kayaking and canoeing on local waterways.

The Minesin Wetlands is a popular place to paddle. However, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority is warning that it is not a suitable place for paddlers who have little to no paddling experience. Even if you are a skilled paddler but don’t know your way around the wetlands, it is recommended that an experienced guide leads you.

The wetlands have unmarked routes, unexpected portages, log jams, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and rapidly changing conditions, to name just a few of the hazards. These conditions can provide an unpleasant or even dangerous experience.

There are organizations like the Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club and Friends of the Minesing Wetlands who lead trips using guides who know the wetlands.

Changing weather, notably in the spring and fall, can quickly turn a decent day into a cold and wet one. You should check the weather forecast before you head out. You should dress for the weather and bring a full change of clothes in a waterproof bag.

In addition, normally calm and well-defined channels can suddenly become an open lake with white caps depending on the amount of rain or snowmelt in the watershed. Water levels can also get so low that paddlers will not be able to pass through.

This ever-changing landscape makes navigation a challenge. If you do fall in, there is a significant risk of hypothermia.

When planning your excursion, you should follow safe boating practices.

You need a sturdy, hard-bottom boat such as a kayak or canoe. Do not attempt passage on a stand-up paddle board or in an inflatable boat. Submerged trees and logs can puncture an inflatable craft.

You also need to ensure you have the mandatory marine safety equipment as required by Transport Canada.

Before you leave for a paddling trip, run through a pre-departure checklist, and be sure to tell others where you are going and what time you expect to return.

When visiting the area, it is your responsibility to make sure you are prepared. Every year, first responders, including the Ontario Provincial Police, have to rescue unprepared visitors in the area.

These rescues can be complex, expensive, time-consuming, and put first responders at risk every time they attempt a rescue.

You should be aware that you may be responsible for paying the cost of the rescue if you need someone to come help you.

You can have a fun experience on the wetlands, but if conditions aren’t right, play it safe, stay home, and try again another day.

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