Hiking & Paddling Safety
In case of emergency - Call 911.
For non-urgent situations during business hours, call NVCA at 705-424-1479.
Conservation areas are a perfect place to get outside and enjoy nature.
But whether you are hiking, paddling, snowshoeing, picnicking or just walking the dog, you should be aware that there are some risks associated with natural areas.
- Trails may follow cliff edges, pass through areas with caves and crevices, or areas along rivers, streams and ponds with no barriers from steep slopes or water.
- Trails may be slippery, particularly if they are wet, snow covered or icy.
- Trails may be uneven or have obstructions like tree roots that pose a tripping hazard.
- In forested areas, trees and branches may fall at any time, but are a particular hazard during high winds or following a storm.
- Conservation areas are home to wild animals and birds. While they are a joy to watch, give wild animals their space. Watch from a distance.
- The ticks that may carry Lyme disease can be found across our region and most of southern and eastern Ontario. If you are heading out to an area where ticks may be present – particularly wooded areas with long grass – take precautions to minimize your risk. Hikers and others heading outdoors should use insect repellant (with DEET) on their skin or clothing, tuck in their shirts, wear long pants and tuck their pants into their socks, and check for ticks after every two or three hours of outdoor activity. Put a tick and flea collar on your pet. For more information on Lyme disease, visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
- Cell phone coverage may be limited in some conservation areas.
If you are visiting a conservation area, you assume these and other risks inherent to trails and natural areas.
No matter how long the trail, follow a few basic hiking safety rules for a fun and safe trip.
Wear proper hiking gear for the weather and the trail you'll be travelling.
Ensure you have a navigation device (compass, GPS, map).
Never venture out alone before telling someone where you are going.
Bring along some water and a snack. Remember your sunscreen in both the summer and winter!
Hike to the weather, modifying your speed in rain or icy conditions.
Watch for change in terrain/hidden hazards, and be extra cautious when hiking in areas with caves, crevices and steep slopes.
- Take particular caution during hunting season - Review our
Be Seen Be Safe brochure for tips to keep you safe.
- If you need to smoke then extinguish your cigarette butts and take them with you. We are not only thinking about preventing fire, we are also preserving nature. Never toss ignited butts!
Whether you're travelling by canoe or kayak, we recommend carrying some extra paddling safety equipment along with the
mandatory marine safety equipment required by Transport Canada.
You might consider carrying these items depending on where and when you paddle.
- Spare paddle
- Towline/extra rope
- First aid kit
- Float bags
New to Boating?
The free STARTboating Program is a great resource for those new to or with little experience boating. It teaches basic boating and water safety skills, and is available in English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi and Tagalog. Check it out if you want to learn the basics of what it takes to safely enjoy boating and be better prepared to have fun on the water.
Of Special Note:
Minesing Wetlands – Paddling & Hunting Safety
It is no wonder that birders, anglers, hunters and others that love the outdoors travel each year through the
Minesing Wetlands – a wonderful wilderness experience just an hour from a major urban centre.
But just because it is close to a city doesn't mean there are any less risk than exploring a wilderness area in a more isolated setting.
No matter what time of year you head out on your Minesing adventure, take these safety precautions seriously.
Wind, Weather, and Water
- Windy conditions can make the Willow Marsh very challenging and unsafe. White caps are possible. The wind can be a real safety concern in the spring, when it increases the risk of capsizing and exhaustion. Check the weather forecast before you leave.
- Changing weather, particularly in the spring and fall, can turn a glorious day into a cold and wet experience very quickly. Make sure you
check the weather forecast before you head out. Bring a full change of clothes in a dry bag, and dress for the weather.
Don't forget to
check the time for sunset (found with the weather forecast), and plan to be out before. With little tree cover, it gets cold in the wetlands after dark.
- Water levels in the Minesing change dramatically throughout the year. What is a calm, well-defined channel in the fall becomes an open lake with white caps during the spring flood. Bring a map, and make sure to have a compass and/or GPS (and know how to use them!).
- Many people get lost in the Willow Creek Marsh as it becomes lake-like and you can lose the creek channel. The “re-entry” point (where it enters the silver maple swamp near the Nottawasaga River) is at UTM 589089 4918425 (Lat/Long 44.414226 -79.881549). From there, the creek channel and tree markers should be visible.
- In the spring, rivers and streams are fast-flowing and cold. There is a significant risk of hypothermia if you fall in.
Check the flood conditions before you head out. And remember, there is always another day to go out – if the conditions aren't right, play is safe and stay home.
- In the summer and fall, water levels in the Minesing may be very low, making for difficult and unpleasant paddling conditions. You may
end up dragging your canoe through the marsh. Check the water levels before you head out.
When heading out into the Minesing, follow good-boating safety practices:
- You need a sturdy, hard-bottomed boat to head in to the Minesing. Canoes and kayaks are usually good options. Do not head out into the Minesing on a stand-up paddle board or in a blow-up inflatable boat.
- Ensure you have the mandatory marine safety equipment required by Transport Canada.
- You should consider carrying additional safety items, including:
- Spare paddle
- Towline/extra rope
- First aid kit
- Float bags
General Safety Practices
- Bring enough water and food for the trip, and then add a bit more in case you run into trouble.
- Wear clothing appropriate for the weather, and have a dry set of clothes in case you fall in.
- Having waterproof matches or a lighter handy is always a good idea when you are in a natural area. But don't count on making a fire in the Minesing – it is a "wet" land and you may not find dry materials to burn.
- There is safety in numbers – travel with a buddy if possible.
- Plan the paddle and ensure that someone not going with you is aware of your plans.
- Don't count on your cell phone. While there is cell coverage in the wetlands, it is patchy and you may not be able to get a signal. If you do run into trouble, your cell phone will be of little help if you don't know where you are – use your GPS or compass, and navigate as you go.
- If you are hunting, be sure to follow best practices for safety. Ducks Unlimited has some good safety tips for
By choosing to visit the Minesing Wetlands or any conservation area, you assume the risks inherent to areas with natural hazards. Be prepared for the worse and you'll be better able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of this amazing slice of wilderness.
Forest Fire Survival Tips
While large forest fires are rare in our area, anyone who enjoys time out in nature should be aware of these fire survival tips:
- Be aware of what's going on around you at all times.
- Be alert for the first signs of forest fire:
- Smell of smoke unlike a normal campfire
- Falling ash
- Abnormal wildlife behaviour, such as animals running through the forest or large numbers of birds flying away
- You may hear the approach of a large fire before seeing the flames
- Stay calm and assess the situation.
- Determine which way the wind is blowing.
- If the wind is blowing from the same direction of the fire, that means the fire is very likely moving your way
- If the wind is blowing towards the fire, head into the wind
Leave the area. Remember, fire travels faster than you. Leave immediately.
- Look for an escape route.
- Fire travels uphill and downwind fastest. The safest routes are typically downhill and upwind.
- Seek safer zones such as:
- Rivers (stay in the water in a place where you can stand)
- Lakes (stay in the water in a place where you can stand)
- Large level areas away from combustible material or previously burned over
- If the fire is nearing you or you're becoming trapped:
- Find low ground, such as a gulley or ravine
- Dig a depression against the wall of the ravine
- Cover yourself with earth or natural fibres (synthetic fibres melt), leaving no skin exposed
- Breath inside your clothing next to your body to protect your respiratory tract from inhaling hot gasses