Cataraqui Canoe Club of Kingston
Environmental and Safety Guidelines
for Canoe-camping

These recommendations are intended to help members safely enjoy the outdoor activities organized by the club.

Personal Safety
Travel and Campsite Ethics
Hygiene and Personal Waste
Safety With Animals
Bear Encounters


Personal Safety

1. Never attempt a trip that will overtax your ability. Improve your skill by meeting progressively stiffer challenges, but do so gradually and — if possible — under the guidance of an expert.

2. The law requires every boat to have a properly fitting PFD (personal flotation device) for each person. We strongly urge you to wear one. Also required by law is a 15-metre floating throw rope, a signalling device such as a whistle (such as a Fox40) and a bailer. A light is required for travel after dusk.

3. All kayakers should carry a well-fitting spray skirt and ensure that their kayaks have proper flotation. Highly recommended equipment for canoes includes a spare paddle and front and rear painters (ropes). All paddlers should wear helmets in whitewater.

4. Pay special attention to drinking water. Surface water should not be consumed without treatment to avoid Giardia ("Beaver Fever") and other such waterborne contaminants. We suggest using the following methods of treatment alone or in combination:

5. Tents should be placed well away from campfires, dead trees, and areas of hillside run off. Place tent away from tree roots (a hazard during lightning), shaded from the wind and sun, and away from animal trails.

6. Do not travel alone in remote areas. An injury or loss of equipment could be disastrous.

7. Be especially careful when paddling in cold weather. Hypothermia is a constant danger if you fall into the water. Learn how to avoid - and how to treat - hypothermia.

8. Avoid wearing cotton clothing and wear your PFD. This will help prevent hypothermia from wind and rain. Wet cotton can increase the likelihood of hypothermia even in warm weather, so consider wearing synthetics (the best choice is quick-dry clothing) or wool.

9. Every canoeist should know how to swim. If you can't swim, wear your PFD!

10. Watch for and be aware of changing weather conditions; use these to make wise choices. A sudden change in wind direction or change in temperature will probably bring a storm.

11. Black flies, mosquitoes, deerflies, horseflies, ticks and other insects are annoying and may carry disease. Wear protective clothing or use an insect repellent.

12. Be aware of the symptoms of Lyme Disease, which is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Avoid contact with ticks by wearing protective clothing or insect repellent. Inspect your body for ticks; if found, remove the tick carefully and save the specimen for analysis. Monitor your body for symptoms. (For more information about Lyme Disease, refer to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website).

13. Wear sun block and protective clothing to prevent sunburn, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and sun.

14. Three blasts on your whistle means an emergency. Make the trip leader aware of your presence and be ready to help. (One blast means "Pay attention"; two blasts means "Round up").

15. Wear proper outdoor clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and solid footwear. Bring extra clothing and always carry rain wear.

16. On rivers, be on the lookout for unexpected rapids. Unless you have the skill and knowledge to run rapids, it is always best to portage around them.

17. Stay with the group: there is safety in numbers. The only exception is if the trip leader gives one or more persons permission to separate from the group.

18. Follow the trip leader's directions. If you feel these compromise your personal safety, make your reasons known to the trip leader.

19. Carry sufficient water.

20. The trip leader (or another person designated by the trip leader) should carry maps and a compass. A GPS unit is also helpful.

21. The trip leader (or other designated person designated by them) should have a first aid kit approved by St. John Ambulance or similar organization. St. John Ambulance is a good source of quality first aid kits.

22. When signing up for a trip, you are indicating your willingness to follow the guidance of the trip leader.
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Travel and Campsite Ethics

1. Minimum impact means enjoying the outdoors without altering its natural state. A clean campsite is a safe one: aim to leave your campsite cleaner than when you arrived.

2. Keep your group size relatively small. A large group may cause expansion of an existing site through trampling and destruction to trees and ground cover.

3. Use existing campsites, trails and portages. Do not camp on the ends of portages in heavily-used areas, as this obstructs the progress of others along the trail.

4. Never cut live trees or shrubs to make shelters or tent poles and never strip live bark from trees.

5. Do not dig drainage trenches around your tent. Trenches scar the site and accelerate erosion. Take advantage of natural drainage and use floored tents.

6. Use lightweight camp stoves. These are convenient to use in all weather, present minimal fire hazard and are much cleaner and faster than fires. They also free up time from collecting and chopping wood.

7. Restricted travel zones are sometimes declared as a result of dangerous forest fire conditions. Check with the nearest Ministry of Natural Resources district office before starting your trip to see whether a travel permit is required. Anyone convicted of starting a forest fire can be charged with the expense of fighting that fire under the laws of Ontario.

8. Use only dead wood for your fire. On small islands, do not collect firewood; repeated searching over a small area soon destroys the vegetation. Gather your firewood away from the island, not concentrated in any one area. For most purposes wood need not be thicker than your thumb.

9. Gather wood so the area remains natural. Do not collect wood near campsite; collect wood farther afield. Do not break branches off standing trees.

10. Keep fires small and build them in existing fire pits. If the area is untravelled, remove evidence of the fire after use. Where there is no fire pit dig to the mineral level of the soil, avoiding the burnable soil, roots and overhanging trees.

11. To extinguish your fire, let it burn out to a white ash. Retrieve non-combustible items (e.g. foil, tin cans) and carry them out with you. Douse the fire thoroughly. Stir the ashes and the area surrounding the ashes. Continue dousing and stirring until the fire is out.

12. Respect private property. Some canoe routes, especially in southern Ontario, traverse private land. The utmost courtesy should be exercised. Stay on portages. Ask permission before camping on private land. Use only those campsites indicated on the map or posted with a sign. Leave no trace behind. If you break trust with the landowner, he or she may withdraw canoeing privileges for others.

13. Leftover food must be eaten or packed out if it cannot be burned completely.

14. Provincial Park regulations may prohibit bringing metal cans and glass into parks (interior camping)

15. Consider using a fire pot to build your fire, so as not to leave a trace of the fire.

16. Avoid making new paths or tent sites. Camp on flat soil, grass or rock, but not on flourishing vegetation.

17. We encourage car pooling on club trips to minimize pollution and alleviate congestion at put-ins and take-outs.
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Hygiene and Personal Waste

1. Don't use soap or detergent in a watercourse; even biodegradable soap pollutes. The word "biodegradable" just means that the product breaks down faster than conventional brands.

2. What is carried in must be carried out. Either burn it or bag it and bring it back with you.

3. Water alone is an effective cleanser and can be used without soap to freshen up.

4. Bathing, shaving and brushing teeth. Carry a bucket of water to a spot at least 15 metres from its source and from campsites. Lather your body, shave or brush your teeth, rinse and disperse the water at that spot.

5. Washing dishes. Never rinse plates, pots or pans directly in the lake or watercourse. Rinse dishes, strain dirty water and disperse the water at least 15 metres away from any water source and campsites. The strained particles should be disposed of appropriately as garbage.

6. Accept the wearing of dirty clothes. Do not wash or rinse your clothes directly in any water source. If you must wash your clothes, use the bucket method (as described in #4, above).

7. Toilet paper, tampons and sanitary pads. Place in a plastic bag to be burnt in the campfire (do not burn the plastic) or carried out. Even biodegradable toilet paper takes a long time to break down. Minimize toilet paper use. Crush one or two Aspirin or similar tablets in the plastic bag to help reduce odours.

8. Human waste. Use outhouses when available. If not, stay at least 15 metres from water or campsites, in a low traffic area. It is best to urinate directly on bare rock or soil; otherwise, carry a trowel and dig a hole 15 cm square and deep, and cover it after use.

9. Hand washing. Wash your hands regularly and before preparing food. Giardia and other parasites can spread rapidly if group hygiene is poor. Do not rinse or wash your hands in the same bucket as other people. Instead, lather your hands with soap and rinse by pouring water over top. This prevents contamination in the main bucket.
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Safety with Animals

1. Be aware of potential danger with all wild animals.

2. Wild animals rarely cause injury to human beings; they are more likely to cause problems with food. Animals are attracted to the smell of food, garbage and toiletries; it is important to keep your site as clean and odour-free as possible. Never bury garbage; animals will detect the scent and dig it up.

3. Keep all food wrapped in plastic to reduce odours. Safely store all scented items when not in use. These are suggested methods:

4. Other items to place in a food pack include toothpaste, perfume, sunscreens, skin creams, deodorant (avoid, or use unscented), used tampons, clothing with spilled food, juice bottles, all food items, used pots and pans, dishes, and garbage.
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Bear Encounters

The Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that there are about 75,000 to 100,000 black bears in Ontario. Bears are generally timid and avoid encounters with people, but they can come into conflict with people when natural foods are scarce.

The following strategies can be used to minimize the chance of a bear encounter:

The Ministry of Natural Resources recommends the following actions for dealing with bears. If you spot a bear on a trail or if one enters your campsite: If a bear is trying to get at food in your campsite, or if a bear tries to approach you, here is how you should react: Bear attacks may stem from the following causes: if the bear is cornered, a mother bear is protecting her young, or (in extremely rare cases) if the bear is a predatory one.

An anxious or annoyed bear may stand upright to get a better view, make huffing or popping sounds, swat or beat the ground with its forepaws or even bluff charge.If you find yourself in one of these situations: Bears are rarely a problem for backcountry travellers. Raccoons and mice are generally the greatest nuisance, and more people in Ontario are hurt by moose each year than by bears. Protect your campsite from wild animals; your safety and that of the campers who come after you depend on your camping etiquette. When wildlife locates garbage that you have left behind, they may come to associate people with food. Any animal that has made this association is apt to become bolder and aggressive; these behaviours may lead to the killing of the "nuisance" wildlife.

(For more information about bear attacks, refer to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website).