The best ways to be prepared for the BWCA

The best ways to be prepared for the BWCA

Before heading out into the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota and Canada, there are some steps to take to help you prepare and stay safe.

It has not been a smooth start to the summer in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but it’s still Joe Friedrichs’ favorite place on earth.

“It’s my favorite place in the country and the world, for that matter, to recreate, to get outside, to go fishing, to go camping, skiing, snowshoeing, anything. It’s just got it all for what I’m interested in, which is solitude, backcountry travel, beauty,” Friedrichs said.

He describes it as magical, but he also knows the reality is that every year, people get injured or even die in the BWCA.

“I finally just wanted to learn more about who these people are so that we can learn from the hard things that happen to other people: capsized canoes, weather-related events, high water, cold water drownings, those types of things,” he said, “not to try to keep people away because I want people to come and enjoy this amazing place.”

He wrote a book, “Last Entry Point,” on the topic. He says through the research for it, he learned there are things campers and paddlers can do to be more prepared. St. Louis County Rescue Squad Capt. Rick Slatten was one of Friedrichs’ primary resources.

“Rick talks a lot about situational awareness, which is how to not just like come to the Boundary Waters, here’s our itinerary, here’s what we’re going to do, and let’s go do it,” Friedrichs said. “That you have to be open to flexibility of maybe we’re not going to get to that campsite we wanted to because it’s too windy, the water’s too high, whatever the factor is that should give you a moment to pause and take stock and go, ‘Hmm. I think we’re going to just end up being here tonight.'”

There are also tips like making sure your tent poles aren’t touching the roots of any trees in case of lightning strikes and to get out of your tent or hammock during a storm so you have a better chance of seeing where trees are falling.

“Always, always – this is like the most simple thing – wear your life jacket. That goes a long way, and I think that’s one thing that gets overlooked,” Friedrichs said. “We’ve had so much rain this year, and the water is still high and dangerous that you should be wearing your life jacket all the time.”

He’ll be discussing “Last Entry Point” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Zenith Bookstore.