I have been heading up to the BWCA for more than a few years now and have extensive outdoor experience in many other areas as well.
Embarrassingly, I do not know who services the BWCA in terms of Search and Rescue (SAR) operations - something that every outdoorsman should know as most wilderness deaths are the direct result of poor planning.
So, here are my questions:
1. Who operates on-water SAR in the BWCA?
2. Who operates air (helicopter) SAR in BWCA?
3. What is the contact information for the above? (emergency phone, non-emergency phone, website, address, etc)
4. Are these agencies or companies private or municipal?
5. If they are municipal, do they service multiple counties, or are different counties serviced by different agencies?
Thanks in advance for any help on the subject matter - I did perform a search and nothing came up. I hope i'm not posting something thats already on here, but i couldn't find it anywhere. This will be useful information to all in my opinion.
just a guess, but id say it all starts with the USFS. good topic! brings a question to mind for all you outfitter/local types....is there any info that would say how many SARs are actually performed in the bwca annually? or atleast something like a 10 year average?
i think bigfoot is blurry. (mitch hedberg...youtube it))
I think it would be the County Sheriff, though I think they would make use of USFS aircraft if need be. In St. Louis County, see: http://www.stlouiscounty.org/slcportal/SiteMap/HomePage/Departments/Sheriff/RescueSquad/RescueSquadMissionandRoles/RescueSquadDonations/tabid/760/Default.aspx
The BWCA is not really helicopter friendly since there aren't many places to land. You'd be much more likely to be rescued in a float plane. Used to be the USFS beavers, but perhaps the county sheriff's have access to other float planes as well. Back in the day I knew of a case where the USFS tracked down a canoeist whose mother had died and flew him out in a beaver. Don't know if that would happen anymore in these days of tight budgets.
You might want to check out the book "Lost in the Wild" by Cary J. Griffith. It's the true stories about a guy that gets lost in the BWCA, and a guy that gets lost in Quetico. It's a really great book and gives an inside look at the SAR operations of each park.
Here is a quick summary of how the SAR worked in the BWCA.
Hiker is supposed be home on a Thursday, he's not, and Mom calls Cook County Sheriff Thursday evening.
That evening a deputy drives to the EP and confirms the hikers car is still there.
Next morning a deputy goes to the USFS seaplane hanger outside Ely, they start an air search in the USFS Beaver.
Cook County Sheriff calls out a volunteer SAR team, who starts a ground search. I'm not sure if is a strictly Cook County team or not. The book mentioned two seperate volunteer SAR teams.
They also ended up calling in dog teams. The book made it sound like they were volunteers as well, maybe from the Twin Cities?
When we ran into the parent of a lost person this last summer, our objective was to contact the sheriff's department who would coordinate with available search and rescue people/equipment.
We were lucky to find a seasoned veteran on the way out for help who had a satellite phone and knew the area. We had trouble contacting the sheriff, but he knew a direct number to the Cook forest service office and they contacted the sheriff and the search began.
In this case, a plane was sent out, and it luckily found the lost person.
As Beavers and also Adam indicate, the lead agencies for search and rescue in the BWCA (and the entire SNF) are the three county sheriffs' departments - Cook, Lake, and St. Louis. The sheriffs' deputies can pull in citizen SAR groups. But if you call the NFS rangers, they'll start the process, too. I just read the "Lost in the Wild" last week. Couldn't put it down. I learned a few things about what to do if lost, but I already knew that Jason Rasmussen (one of the lost guys in the book) SHOULD NOT HAVE LEFT HIS TENT BEHIND. Doh!
Trygve..thats not how i read the book..the Quetico fellow did a
rock hop like we all do and lost his footing..the blow to his head
left him wandering around untill he was really lost..the scouts he
was leading did not look deep enought into the woods for him
because they were afraid of what might be in there--wildcats i
think is what they said..he made his own way out because he knew
how to use a compass and what the layout of the land was like..
Canada ran the SR with no fooling around..they cut out a
dock for the float plain..brought in lots of gear---
the BWCA guy just did not know what he was up against..he thought it would be a walk in a park and got turned around on the
old logging roads..he was a hiker not a canoe tripper..the walk
in the woods leaving the tent and gear was a bad move but who
knows what any of us would do in the same spot..with all the
old trails he crossed and recrossed he thought another was
"just over there"..the US SR seemed a bit more of a amateur
job and the new snow cover did not help the air search..
he did however keep his wits about him and made a shelter and
stuck it out untill found...it is really nasty country up there
which is why i always stick to the lakes and don't head off to
explore the woods too much..
I usually do a just after iceout solo in May. I pick up my permit at Hungry Jack Outfitters. Dave Seaton, the outfitter and a member of the Gunflint Trail SAR, always asks for my itinerary. He says that he doesn't doubt my abilities, but accidents do happen and knowing where I plan to be and equipment I'm using would make their job easier. Makes sense to me. I always check in with him before I leave for home.