Around 6 p.m. on the evening of July 10, a 41-year-old woman from Essa Township, Ont., 20-minute drive west of Barrie, launched her paddleboard into the Nottawasaga River outside the town of Angus. She intended to paddle 20 kilometres to the Edenvale Conservation Centre with her dog as a companion.
On that night, the Nottawasaga River, which stretches 120 kilometres from the Orangeville Reservoir through the Niagara Escarpment, and empties into Georgian Bay, was experiencing low water levels between Angus and Edenvale. Finding her paddleboard grounded, the woman was forced to portage her board through several stretches of the river, said Ontario Provincial Police in a press release.
The extra exertion of carrying the board slowed the woman’s progress, wearing her down. By the time she hit the 10-kilometre mark, she was exhausted. With the sun getting low, the woman and her dog stopped and were stranded in a remote section of the bush. The woman called a family member for assistance.
The family member and a friend launched a boat from Edenvale and headed back towards Angus in an attempt to locate the woman and dog. But the boat struggled to navigate the low water levels and got caught in a swampy section of the river. The family member and friend abandoned the boat and continued to travel by foot through the bush in the dark.
After walking several kilometres, the family member and friend located the woman and dog. Not having the energy to make it back to the boat, the three individuals made a call to the OPP. Officers from OPP’s Huronia West detachment contacted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, a search and rescue team operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Using a Griffon helicopter, the two organizations located the stranded individuals along the river, but due to the darkness, the helicopter was unable to land safely. Instead, the helicopter crew lowered a JRCC member to the stranded individuals, carrying supplies, such as food and water. The JRCC member stayed in the bush with the individuals for the remainder of the night.
Early the next morning, once the sun had risen, the helicopter returned and picked up the stranded individuals. All three were returned safely.
Instances such as this illustrate the need to be prepared to handle the associated risks of travelling into remote areas, said the OPP in a statement.
“Search and rescue operations can be complex, expensive, and time-consuming, and involve multiple agencies who, themselves are put at risk. Our best advice is to avoid putting yourself in potentially dangerous circumstances in the first place and to properly plan for contingencies, be prepared for worst-case scenarios, and take along appropriate equipment/clothing.”
When embarking on a remote trip, the OPP suggests:
- Travelling with an experienced friend or guide
- Leaving a route plan with family members that includes an expected return date
- Carrying a cell phone or satellite phone for emergency calls
- And bringing emergency equipment, such as extra food, a first aid kit, and a GPS device