Planning your water-based activities in Patagonia

Planning your water-based activities in Patagonia
Aysén Information

This article will help you prepare for a wide range of activities in the incredible waters of Patagonia. We offer some considerations for safely crossing rivers and streams by foot, vehicle, bicycle or horse.

One of the hallmarks of Patagonia is water.  You will be amazed at the beauty and absolute abundance of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, waterfalls and fjords!  
The waters of Patagonia offer visitors unique and unforgettable experiences; a wide range of activities and sports. However, these activities involve risks that can effect your travels. Many times these effects simply produce unexpected inconveniences; however, there are also risks related to water-based activities that could lead to accidents with serious consequences. It is important for you to understand and accept responsibility to manage these risks.
First, consider the dangers of the activity and environment.  Dangers are environmental conditions and circumstances that increase the likelihood of harm to people. There are two types of dangers; objective and subjective.  Objective dangers are those associated with nature; e.g., ice on the road. Subjective dangers are associated with actions taken by people; e.g., driving a car at a high speed along this icy road. 
The objective dangers associated with water-based activities in Patagonia include deep water, low water temperatures, and strong currents, obstacles in the water, turbidity and climatic conditions. The subjective dangers include inexperience, inadequate physical condition or sense of balance, fatigue or illness, lack of knowledge, inadequate equipment, or a bad attempt at crossing a river.  
Identification and analysis of risk is the second component of your preparation.  When you enter into the waters of Patagonia, you mix objective dangers and hazards with the subjective dangers you and others add. This combination increases the risk, or probability, of an event in which there could be damage to people, equipment or the environment. The typical activities that take place in the waters of Patagonia include crossing rivers and streams on foot, bicycle, or horse, and other activities like fishing and kayaking. Some of the risks of these activities include the possibility of getting lost, falling into deep water, being carried away by the current, getting your kayak wedged in between rocks or other debris of the river, falling from a height, being hit by a falling object, piercing yourself with a fishhook, or spending the night in the back-country. 
You may think of others, as you consider your plans.  
The third dimension of your planning involves consideration or the possible consequences associated with the risks you have identified. Some of the consequences related with the risks we’ve presented include, damage or loss of equipment, personal injury, including severe or even fatal injury, hypothermia, drowning, delays, changes or an early end of the trip.  These things are not fun to consider, especially when you are planning a vacation.
The good news is these risks can be anticipated and managed! Once you've taken the time to identify the dangers, risks, and possible consequences, you can decide on and implement strategies to minimize chances of their occurrence. Here are some tactics and measures to consider in your water-based activity strategy.  Always bring appropriate clothing for the changing conditions in Patagonia.  With water-based activities, you’ll also want dry-clothes, tools for making a fire and hot water, walking sticks or poles, and the proper equipment, in good condition.  Some of the equipment you should consider includes a GPS, food, and the kits described in the self-sufficient travel article of this guide. 
When Crossing Streams & Rivers:
- Carefully evaluate the need to cross.
- NEVER cross alone.
- Station a person with experience on the downstream side of the group, where they can help with the crossing.
- Use trekking poles for support as you cross.
- Cross as a group, holding the back or backpack of the person in front of you.
- Loosen the straps and belt pack of your backpack. If you slip, you can remove it.
- Take off your socks and remove the insoles of your boots or shoes, but leave your shoes on.  
- If you fall into the water, change into dry clothes immediately. Make a fire to provide warmth, and drink warm liquids.
- Do not attempt new techniques without an experienced guide.
- Do not attempt crossing rivers or streams on horseback, without the assistance of experienced horse guides who are familiar with the route.
- When crossing streams by bike, check the depth and determine your route, before crossing your equipment.  When you cross, carry the bike on your shoulder. 

When Swimming, Fishing & Kayaking:
- Use proper clothing and technical equipment, e.g., life jackets, wet suits, windbreaker jackets, waders, gloves, walking sticks, helmets, etc.
- Stay close to shore and stick with your group or guide.  Never swim, fish, or kayak, alone.
- When fishing in waders, ALWAYS wear a belt so that, if you are carried downstream by the current, your waders will not fill up with water and become a weight.
- It is a good idea to travel with a GPS and map, marking landmarks, as you go.

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