DISCLAIMER & RISK AWARENESS
All descriptions and classifications of water bodies on this website are provided as a rough guide. They must not be taken as absolute. Water bodies change over time, with flow rate, and grading by one author will often not match the grade given by another even if run on the same day.
Ultimately each person must take full responsibility for their own safety. This means not taking risks beyond your ability, researching and training before a trip, staying alert and scouting rapids, ensuring you have appropriate equipment and skill for the trip type and conditions. The author of this website cannot be held liable for any injury that may result from the pursuit of activities discussed within or linked from the prairievoyageur.wordpress.com web site.
Humans have placed great effort into fabricating a world that reduces the risk of human injury, suffering and discomfort. Ironically, part of both the thrill and challenge of self-propelled outdoor journeys is managing the increased risks that result from walking/biking/canoeing away from many human safety nets.
There are many books on the subject of outdoor safety that will provide good advice on how to manage and minimize these risks that should be studied before outdoor ventures. I’ll try to find some to recommend.
Below is an edited list of some of the hazards to prepare for if canoeing the South Saskatchewan River as an example (this list is not comprehensive):
* Potential high winds considering it’s the prairies with minimal tree cover (i.e. a decent tent designed for high winds is best). A cheap tent could be torn to shreds resulting in what Bill Mason would call “adversity”, a downgrade from “adventure”.
* Keep in mind lightning risk as one can be exposed in a thunderstorm. There is little one can do beyond avoiding trees and open spaces (stay close to shore away from trees). Hail up to baseball size is another potential risk, in which case head for shore and duck under the overturned canoe (or at least use the paddle to protect your head??).
* Livestock abound on this portion of the river, including bull cattle which presents some risk. To be honest I have not researched this but a loud horn or whistle might be good, though I’m not sure how effective this might be to deter a stampeding bull. Avoid them as much as possible.
* Rattle snakes (poisonous) and bull snakes (non-poisonous, but more likely to bite) – leather boots with high ankles are a must, and a sharp eye when walking. Also, there is lots of cacti (and cattle dung)
in the grass which boots are good for. Also, appropriate first aid including snake bite treatment.
* Coyotes are common, though likely low risk (keep food away from tent)
* The river is bounded by private land on both sides not far from shore. Access to private land without permission is trespassing. There is generally room to set up camp near the river, which is government owned Crown Land. There are sometimes markers to indicate property line. This restricts options for campsites. It is best to use the established campgrounds as much as possible, to minimize impacts to the land. Always pack out all garbage and in high traffic areas human waste must be packed out as well.
NOTE: Paddle Alberta has an Adopt-A-Throne fund you can donate to for establishing toilets on high traffic canoe routes:
* There are blackflies in this area in spring up to early July. And of course mosquitoes all summer. The area we paddled has a higher density of West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes compared with other parts of the prairies. Bug clothing may be needed, bug spray, etc.
* This area can have extreme heat in summer. Hats, sunscreen, potable water, etc.
* Potable water is only available at campgrounds, and even then may not be, such as Lemsford Ferry Park. Large water carrying capacity is needed. The river is likely too silty to filter or boil for drinking, we did not attempt this.
* River levels can fluctuate rapidly and significantly. River currents can at times present a paddling challenge. A high water level can eliminate campsites quickly, even overnight. A low water level can mean a lot of hauling a beached canoe through silt that can at times be like quicksand. Water levels can be monitored online at periodic stations.
* High winds can prevent paddling due to large waves, potentially up to a few days or more. Have a back-up plan (extra days food, emergency communications, plan for possible emergency food drop-off, etc). A strong wind can quickly seem to come from nowhere and swamp an open canoe. Be aware of the 1-10-1 rule in case you end up in the water — see Cold Water Immersion Safety. Stay close to shore in case high winds come up. Use a spray deck if possible. Have a pair of dry clothes handy in a waterproof bag in case you capsize. Make a hot drink if chilled. Etc.