The river canoeing opportunities in British Columbia are nothing less than outstanding and RCABC encourages you to get outside and enjoy them! But BC's rivers require extra caution, gear and skills. The list of cautions is long, but they can all be managed very safely with training and an attitude towards safety.
British Columbia's waterways normally range from cold to very cold. There are a some warm lakes and rivers in the summer, but in many cases the water was snow not too long ago. Dressing appropriately is vital to not just being comfortable but also to prevent hypothermia (lowering of the body's core temperature), which is one of your biggest safety concerns.
Make sure you have the appropriate skills for the trip you have planned. Paddling down a placid lake takes some canoeng skill, but what if one of those intense BC storms blows over a mountain and you suddenly find yourself in whitecaps and high winds that you didn't anticipate?
When canoeing anywhere in Canada, basic safety gear is required by Transport Canada but there's other gear that you should have along as well. It's all pretty useful stuff and makes sense, especially if you've ever had to use it! And yes, people have gotten tickets for not carrying the required TC gear.
Canoeing on lakes and rivers with a group requires some structure if you want to reduce risk and build a sense of teamwork. How far apart your group is and what kind of formation you travel in should be planned. How many canoes are a safe number and have you ever gone or thought about going on a solo trip?
If you're out canoeing regularly, it is likely that sooner or later you'll capsize. If you're not sure how to deal with capsizes, the results can range from fun to unsettling to quite dangerous. With training, practice and experience, performing a rescue can become simple and routine, even when it is unexpected.
We enjoy looking forward the many positives of canoeing and being out in the wilderness, but it is worthwhile to identify the hazards that you may encounter and take reasonable steps to prepare for them.
What are the specific hazards on your trip?
Pre-trip planning pays off by identifying issues that may become a nuisance, challenging or even dangerous later on. Having a meeting days or weeks before going on longer trips is extremely helpful for everything from meal planning to navigation, leadership and rescue roles. A pre-trip meeting every day before heading out on the water is highly recommended too, even if you're paddling with a familiar group. If you are a leader or guide it is a Transport Canada requirement.