11

It looks like I may be able to spend couple months from March in Newfoundland. During my last trip I noticed a great number of hauntingly beautiful bogs, right by the road - thus one could effortlessly explore them. Aside from one Bear Grylls episode, I have not seen the swamps being navigated through. The ones with dead trees are the most charming.

Is there a known and proven safe way to walk through them without risking you won't get out? What gear is used?

Granted, March probably wouldn't be a best month, as hypothermia would be quite possible, but do they really get warm sooner than in June?

Is there really any other risk involved other than drowning? Perhaps I missed that but the official classification did not specify any animals living there.

  • 4
    It depends on the type of terrain. Do you have a photo or a link? You should also check your allowed to enter these areas. Are they environmentally sensitive/protected? – user2766 Feb 24 '16 at 10:00
  • Which official classification are you talking about exactly? – Erik vanDoren Feb 25 '16 at 19:03
  • Northern bogs are favorite places for moose. Moose are capable of injuring or killing a person, if so inclined. Fortunately, they are usually not inclined, but they are a credible hazard to be aware of when in their habitat. – Wayne Conrad Apr 5 '18 at 19:00
  • I would emphasize what @Liam said, please confirm with local environmental protection agencies if you are permitted to enter these bogs. Regardless of their answer, know that these are inherently quite sensitive environments and your wading will disturb them. Will they bounce back? Certainly possible. Will whatever chemicals you introduce to them alter the ecosystem? Undoubtedly. How much / does it matter? Thus why I say ask the local agency. – cr0 Apr 13 '18 at 16:54
10

There isn't really a safe way to do this. The problem is that you have no way to tell how deep the water/mud ahead of you is and there is always the risk of getting entangled in submerged holes, branches or other obstructions, plus marshes tend to have viscous mud or silt at the bottom whcih can suck at your feet making walking tiring and greatly increases the risk of stumbles and slips.

'Quicksand' is a familiar cliche but it is a real risk and even apparently firm ground in tidal or swampy areas can be a dangerous trap for the unwary.

There is also the very real risk that you could twist an ankle or break your leg, quite apart from the fact that it is easy to underestimate the physical demands of walking through this sort of terrain and you could become exhausted some distance from a safe place at which hypothermia and exhaustion become very real dangers.

If you do want to explore this sort of terrain the best advice is to seek a local guide who knows the area very well and travels through it regularly. In general shallow draft boats are the only really safe means of transport in swamps and marshes, unless there are prepared paths established.

In an emergency when you have no other choice you should proceed with great caution. Use a long stick to probe the ground ahead of you, feeling for depth and any submerged hazards. Also make sure that your pack is held over one shoulder only so you can quickly discard it if you fall and if at all possible line it with a large plastic bag or similar so that it can act as a flotation aid.

  • 2
    I used to go swamp/bog walking all the time. It's actually not terribly fatiguing as long as you're taking it slow. – Russell Steen Feb 26 '16 at 13:56
  • @Russell Steen: Can you share few of your experiences and the gear you used ? My march trip got cancelled, and the next window looks to be around June (much warmer weather up there). – BladeRunner Apr 7 '16 at 15:20
  • Chris : I really like the plastic bag idea. I believe I should have some kind of a snorkel handy, should I get entangled in branches or something and had to spend some time underwater to release myself. I think I'll need 2 knives (that can saw off wood if needed) too (one on each leg). – BladeRunner Apr 7 '16 at 15:23
7

A big risk is falling into a stump hole. They can be hard to get out of on dry land, much less while submerged. Carry a stout stick and feel the ground ahead very forcefully.

Waders should protect you from hypothermia just fine.

After those risks, I would consider critters. Mosquitos love bogs and carry all sorts of nasty illnesses. Water snakes will bite if surprised or cornered. Depending on the location you may also have to worry about snapping turtles, alligators, crocodiles, or caiman.

You also have the good old fashioned risk of getting lost. Bogs can have wide tracts of land that all look pretty much the same. It is very easy to get turned around and no longer know which way is "home".

  • 2
    I really dont think he would have to worry about alligators, crocodiles or caimans in Newfoundland. Encountering a moose could be a problem instead. I have my doubts on wades keeping him warm enough also – Erik vanDoren Feb 25 '16 at 19:02
  • 1
    How well do the waders usually insulate ? I imagine the wading would be a very slow process. Water can suck out the warmth from body very fast, so I reckon I cannot really explore very far from the edge? What is the max amount of time I can spend in near-freezing water in waders ? Perhaps 3-4 hrs at most ? – BladeRunner Feb 25 '16 at 21:34
  • 2
    Waders prevent you from getting wet. You'll still need temperature appropriate clothing otherwise. Re - Newfoundland - Indeed, I concur on the animals but was trying to make it more general to swamps/bogs as a whole. – Russell Steen Feb 26 '16 at 13:58
  • Waders should act like a dry suit @BladeRunner keeping you totally dry underneath. However, even with chest high waders you could get wet, especially if wading doesn't go smoothly, so you'll want to wear appropriate clothing as Russel noted. – cr0 Apr 13 '18 at 17:27
4

canoe in a swamp

It seems to me that a canoe would be the most pleasant way to navigate/explore a swampy/boggy area. Canoes typically have a shallow draft allowing you to explore areas with minimal water depth. They will also help you avoid inadvertently falling into a hole and getting a foot/ankle/leg trapped. You will have extra space to carry more supplies, and in a pinch you could sleep in the canoe. You also have a little wall to keep swamp critters from getting too up close and personal.

Of course if the area is open enough, and you have the means, you can ride in style with a fan boat....

silly swamp fan boat

  • I can't say I can identify with canoe. Yes, it would be safer (but my safety is never my concern in the first place), but it would completely ruin the experience. There would be no energy exchange between me and the swamp, as I would be quite detached from it (almost as if examining the place using google maps) - merely floating above it. The only upside of this is that I could cover much larger area, but I'd rather intimately feel 200 meters at 100%, then quickly fly through 200 km of swamps at 1%. – BladeRunner Apr 7 '16 at 15:16
  • 1
    @BladeRunner I agree that it is a different experience but I don't think it's a lesser experience. The canoe lets you move quietly so you have a better chance to see wildlife. You can cover more territory so you have a better chance to find new and beautiful area. You can get deeper into the bog so you can see more virginal areas. You can use a hybrid approach to paddle through deep areas and wade the shallows bringing flexibility to the venture. You can wade in and paddle out to maximize your wading time in new areas. The canoe is a tool that can compliment the experience if you let it. – Erik Apr 7 '16 at 15:29
  • 1
    The idea of combining both approaches is indeed very exciting and clever - I would not reach those areas just by wading (as I suspect the total time spent in swamp will be limited to maybe 4-5 hrs). I would paddle and then get out once I find great area.I really love this idea ! But how do you enter the canoe without overturning it ? I guess that's a skill that could be practiced and learnt. – BladeRunner Apr 7 '16 at 19:41
  • 1
    @BladeRunner It is indeed a skill that can be learned but that isn't really needed. The easy solution is to get into and out of the canoe close to the shore/stump/shallows/etc. That way the transition is easy. – Erik Apr 7 '16 at 19:45
2

I'm reiterating and expanding on highlights from other answers and adding a cautionary anecdote.

First off, as noted in a comment, please confirm with local environmental protection agencies if you are permitted to enter these bogs. Regardless of their answer, know that these are inherently quite sensitive environments and your wading will disturb them. Will they bounce back? Certainly possible. Will whatever chemicals you inevitably introduce to them alter the ecosystem? Undoubtedly to some extent. How much / does it matter? Thus why I say ask the local agency.

Now regarding these areas being sensitive, that is part of their beauty (and their danger...we'll get into that in next paragraph), and for that reason I highly recommend Erik's advice about using a canoe to explore these areas. I read the comments there and recognize how canoeing could seem like a less intimate experience than wading around. However, as noted there, you can take the best of both worlds: canoe to explore a broader area, and park it on shore to wade around in shallower, safer spots you want to get more up close to. The added benefit of canoeing, as Erik noted, is it will cause less disturbance. You can cover quite a bit of ground, or simply float in place, and will not be making much noise or disturbing the water, soils, and various creatures. You will feel much more intimately connected to the place when it is in its usual state and not all turbulent, mucked up, and quieted down out of fear from disturbance.

Regarding disturbance and actually wading in northern bogs: Chris and Russel gave good advice about bringing a long sturdy stick, being prepared to drop any heavy items from you, and prepping your bag to float. Know what threatening creatures might live there; in that neck of the woods it's probably not much, but moose can be serious and you will be like a fish in a barrel if one wants to attack while you're wading. Not likely, but tragically possible. The main danger to you I want to emphasize is how "quicksand" like these bogs can be, and I speak from personal experience working in these areas. What appears as land is often thick mats of mossy material, perched on roots or floating. You can, and almost certainly will eventually, find your foot going through the mat and into the water below it. That hazard, and the hazard of muck (on shore and under water) getting your feet stuck, is exacerbated by the fact that struggling can make it harder to get unstuck. Worse yet, in some places bog muck can be deep enough for you to sink into mud so low that your head is no longer above water; that muck is like deep water but with such thick sediment that you can't easily move through or extract yourself from it. You can loose your other footing, and wiggling or trying to push free you can accidentally deepen and compact the hold the muck has on you. To escape the worst of that kind of situation, you'd need, as I once did, a rope to pull you out of it from above the surface while your legs remain relaxed. When I experienced that in muck on a surface near a bog (not even wading in water at the time!), I was rescued by a colleague and rope after calmly-then-not-calmly struggling to get myself out of the muck for a few minutes, and when being pulled out by rope I actually had to detach one of my hip-high waders and retrieve it after since it was stuck. Not all bog grounds are that bad, but they can be deceiving. Keep that kind of situation in mind as a possibility when you consider wading or even walking around in these areas.

All that aside, these are hauntingly beautiful places. I recommend canoeing again because it's simply a much more relaxing way to experience the serene environment. I do like bushwhacking and swamps make for great bushwhacking. When I do so I try to stay out of the water and take slow, careful steps, and try to be calmly prepared for the ground or tree I'm relying on to give out. That said, it can be a wonderful experience. I hope you enjoy, safely for you and the swamp creatures!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.