Saskatchewan campers taught survival skills at provincial parks

WATCH ABOVE: Campers gathered at Douglas Provincial Park to learn survival skills.

“Do you like having campfires?” Saskatchewan park ranger Alison Nagy asked nearly 20 campers at Douglas Provincial Park.

“But you know what? Sometimes your lighter runs out of fluid … or sometimes your matches get wet. So it’s a good idea to know a few other ways to light a fire.”

The campers gathered at Douglas Provincial Park to learn exactly that.

READ MORE: Sask. provincial park campgrounds officially open for the season

The course — how to safely and responsibly start fires — is part of the Survival Series, programs hosted by Tourism Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Provincial Parks to help visitors explore and learn vital skills for spending time outdoors.

“In a survival situation … you can go into shock and you can get cold, so one of the most important things to do is get a fire going as quickly as possible,” Nagy said.

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Greg Leniuk said he and his family go camping every summer. His family was taking part in the program, Leniuk said so that his kids could learn to “just to feel comfortable in nature and camping … and if they have trouble they know what to do to get out of that trouble and stay safe.”

The course teaches different ways to start a fire. The campers learn how to create a spark or flame using everything from matches to magnifying glasses.

They are also taught how to use more time-honoured tools.

“While I really like the flint strikers, I think that there’s something really cool about the bow drill,” Nagy said.

READ MORE: New online system launched for booking Saskatchewan campsites

A bow drill resembles the historic weapon but has a thick strand of leather with lots of slack instead of a taut bowstring. A small cylindrical wooden stake is wrapped in the leather strand at a right angle to the bow, which is then moved back and forth to make the stake spin.

The point of the stake is placed on a flat piece of wood with some dry kindling. When the friction of the moving stake creates enough heat, sparks will be created and the kindling will catch fire.

“I’ve been working on getting a lot better [with it],” Nagy said, noting how difficult it is to operate.
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“It takes some practice and patience.”

After a fire is started, the class, most of whom are under the age of 12, are rewarded with a traditional campfire meal — a roasted marshmallow.

Nagy says that the Survival Skills programs cater to younger campers to foster an appreciation and respect for the outdoors.

“Our parks are really special places and we want them to be here for generations to come,” she said.

READ MORE: $11M investment for Saskatchewan’s provincial parks

“In order to make sure that happens, we need to make sure that the present and future generations are enjoying and exploring our parks so when they grow up they’ll come back and bring their families as well.”

Leniuk says that he hopes that his children will leave the course better prepared to enjoy the outdoors for the rest of their lives.

But his son Nathaniel seems focused on more immediate results.

“I could start a fire on my own and cook hot dogs!” he said.

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