COLUMBUS – The beauty of a winter wonderland can quickly turn dangerous if outdoor enthusiasts don’t take proper precautions. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is encouraging Ohio residents and out-of-state visitors to be careful while participating in winter recreational activities such as hiking or ice fishing.
“Ohio’s natural areas are beautiful in every season – even winter,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “The best way to enjoy the serene landscapes and chilly weather is the safe way: Check the forecast before heading out, dress warmly, and follow all posted safety guidelines.”
The recent weather has frozen bodies of water and covered much of the state with several inches of snow. With temperatures expected to drop even more, it is important to remember that ice is never safe and should always be considered dangerous.
ODNR has some tips to stay safe while enjoying the outdoors in the winter months.
Stay warm while enjoying winter
-Dress warmly. Start with layers of insulating fabrics and add a final layer of protective fabrics.
-Keep your head, neck, and hands covered by wearing hats, scarves, and gloves.
-Come prepared, pay attention to how you feel, and know when to seek shelter.
Winter hiking safety tips
-Prepare for your hike by finding out the mileage and level of difficulty. Visiting a specific state park? Hikers should visit parks.ohiodnr.gov and select the appropriate state park to see a map of the hiking trails. Contact the local park office for trail conditions.
-Check the forecast and have a plan if severe weather strikes. If inclement weather is expected, reschedule your trip for another time.
-Hikers should let others know where they will be hiking and what time they will return.
-Stay on the designated trail and follow the trail signs.
-Bring snacks and water. Cold, dry air can dehydrate hikers quickly.
-During the winter, frequently used trails can become packed down and icy, even if other parts of the trail are clear. Be aware of potential slick spots and always use caution while hiking.
-Sturdy waterproof boots and warm socks are recommended while hiking. Hand warmers can help on longer hikes.
Ice fishing safety tips
-Ice anglers should prepare and share a “float plan” to let others know when they will be out on the ice and where they will be fishing, where they will park their vehicles, and when they will return.
-Always fish with a partner or in an area where several other anglers are present.
-Contact a local ice guide or bait shop to ask about ice conditions.
-Put a cellphone in a plastic bag to protect it from getting wet.
-Adequately check the ice thickness before traveling onto the ice.
-Dress properly for conditions, which should include wearing an approved life vest.
-Avoid areas with feeder streams, springs, bridge pilings, docks, and dam structures since ice is usually very thin there.