A 34-year-old man from Indiana who was "severely hypothermic" was rescued from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Saturday night.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources tweeted Sunday that it and members of the St. Louis County Rescue Squad rescued the man "in heavy snow and air temperatures in the teens."
DNR communications coordinator Joe Albert told BMTN, "Most of his gear was wet, and when rescuers arrived they found his light down jacket hanging from a tree. It was frozen solid."
The man was "severely hypothermic and may not have made it through the night," the DNR said.
Lt. Nate Skelton of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office told BMTN the man started a seven-day solo trip in the BWCA on Saturday.
The paddler was at a campsite on Nina Moose Lake, about 20 miles north of Eily, when just before 5 p.m. Saturday, he sent an emergency signal to the outfitter he'd gone through saying he was wet and cold.
“It was as dark as I’ve ever seen it out there,” DNR Conservation Officer Sean Williams said in a news release. “You couldn’t see anything. It was snowing heavily, fog was moving in, and there was ice on the lake. We had to break through ice to get to the middle of the lake, and when we made it to the middle it was so dark we had to use a GPS to find the shore and his campsite."
When rescuers arrived at his campsite at about 8 p.m., they used heat pads on the man's core, got him into warmer gear and built a fire to help warm him up. The paddler sat near the fire for about 90 minutes before he got warm enough for rescuers to load him in a boat and head back to their entry point, before portaging out of the wilderness.
Skelton said the man "is all good" – no injuries, "just cold and wet."
The DNR commended the man's decision to rent an emergency communications device and for using it when he realized how "dire" his situation was. The DNR notes this, along with the efforts of rescuers, "likely saved his life."
“Had we not gotten there when we did, I don’t know that he would have made it through the night,” Williams said. “Luckily he had the communications equipment and wasn’t afraid to use it once he knew he was in trouble.”
The Northland over the weekend was hit by a storm system that produced wintry conditions, with up to 4 inches of snow accumulating in some areas.
Social media posts shed light on the conditions in the BWCA, with a post on a BWCA blog from someone who said they were in the area over the weekend noted "conditions were definitely challenging," stating the "portages were slick and treacherous in sections that were snow-covered." They said they were getting wet even with the proper gear.
If you plan to go into the BWCA make sure you have a plan for all elements and a way to contact someone if you should get into trouble, Skelton recommends. Before you go, leave a detailed itinerary with family or an outfitter, which can help assist in any type of search if one is needed.
"Use caution at all times and do not take any unnecessary risks to avoid injury or exposure," Skelton said.