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10/01/2018 6:46 pm  #1

Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

I hope the title is not too dramatic but my brother and I were witness to a very scary incident at the Mew Lake Campground on Friday, September 21. That's the same night a tornado touched down near Ottawa.

The two of us were camped at site 105 having arrived that morning for a long weekend of hiking the day trails. After traversing the Track and Tower trail, we returned to our site and started processing wood for the fire. We both noticed the wind picking up significantly, so much so that we pulled down the MEC Guides tarp we had erected earlier in the day. The way the wind was whipping I was afraid the tarp might get damaged, similar to an incident I experienced at Provoking Lake last fall.

It was just before dusk when we finished our dinner. Sitting before the campfire we heard a loud crack and looked around in time to see a pine that I estimate was 80 feet in height topple from its base near the road and fall toward the site next to us. The tree fell down, dragging a smaller neighbouring tree with it. When the two trees landed with a crash, we called over to the site to see if the two campers there were all right. The reply came back that they were safe.

My brother and I rushed over to find the tree had flattened one of the two tents pitched on the site. The campers were standing on the far side of the campsite in a bit of shock. They quickly drew our attention to the fire pit. Not only had the tree hit the tent bang on, the top of the tree had fallen directly across the fire pit. The fire had been going strong and this dead tree was capable of catching fire at any moment. My brother and I rushed back to our site, he grabbed his hatchet, I grabbed my camp saw and we spent the next hour sawing and hacking to clear both the pit and afterward the tent so the camper could access his gear.

One of the campers called the park office, let them know there were no injuries and was told the wardens would come by as soon as possible. It actually took more than an hour for the wardens to arrive onsite. They were very professional and explained there were trees down all over the park, some even blocking roads.

I've attached a few photos to show you. This was certainly a reminder to me...widowmakers are no rumoured threat. I know I will pay more attention going forward whenever setting up my tent. If that tree had fallen two hours later when the camper had been in that tent, there would have been a real tragedy.

Last edited by Blobsquatch (10/01/2018 6:54 pm)


10/01/2018 8:46 pm  #2

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Wow that is scary!  Thank god nobody was hurt....


10/02/2018 8:15 am  #3

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Scary stuff for sure. This is a good reminder that you need to look out for widow makers even at established campgrounds. In my mind this was mostly a backcountry concern.


10/02/2018 10:44 am  #4

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Definitely scary stuff, that is my single biggest fear in the back country. Every thing else you can prepare for to a certain degree but pretty hard to hide from extreme winds while in the back country.  Its pretty much impossible to be 100% certain if a tree is going to become a widow maker.
I just watched Joe Robinet's recent trip video where they had trees falling all around them. It was probably the same storm system.
I am glad no one was injured. Be safe out there friends!!


10/02/2018 10:56 am  #5

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Wow! Thanks for sharing; sometimes a stark reminder is necessary. 

I got in a bit of a heated discussion last year with my bro-in-law. He's less experienced of a camper and I wouldn't let him pitch his tent directly under a dead pine with lots of big branches. He tried to insist it was a nice flat spot but eventually gave into my concern and found a different spot. Glad I persisted in that argument. 

(don't worry, we bonded later over whiskey and M&Ms


10/02/2018 9:09 pm  #6

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Sorry I did not see this post first. Joe robinet was making a video in Algonquin the same night. Many trees down on his site.

Looking at the pics here and the video joe made, it’s important to check for dead trees. Even if they are not widowmakers out right. Ie hanging. Uprouted.

Check joe video out also. Or Doug outsides video.


10/03/2018 12:22 am  #7

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

That same night I had one miss my hammock by about 6 inches.  It wasn't a classic widow maker by any stretch.  In fact someone had been through the site recently with a chainsaw and had taken down two big widow makers.  Also, good call on taking the tarp down.  I left my guide tarp up and it got shredded.


10/03/2018 9:50 am  #8

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

I had a trip planned Friday to Sunday and on Thursday afternoon I pushed it back to be Saturday to Monday instead. I was going with my girlfriend and had obviously been watching the forecast religiously the days leading up to it, and I kept saying it’s not the rain or thunderstorms I’m worried about... It’s the wind. Not only was it going to be a headwind all through Rock and Pen (we wouldn’t be able to move), but even if we somehow made it to camp on Clydegale, I didn’t want to pitch a tent and tarp in those winds and risk damaging my gear, or worse, ourselves. This is a great example that shows how real the threat is and I wasn’t just fearmongering.

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10/07/2018 9:35 pm  #9

Re: Campers avert tragedy at Mew Lake Campground

Two months ago, August, 2018, this storm:

unfortunately caused very severe concern to a person's left leg when a large tree,  east of APP,  crashed down upon a large tent with one person inside the tent who was waiting for the rest of the group to arrive shortly thereafter. Persons outside of the tent at the time of the accident were not injured.

"The general guideline for tornado safety is to get as low to the ground as possible and assume the tornado safety crouch:

Wind speeds will be slower close to the ground, you are less likely to be hit by a flying object, and are less of a target for lightning strikes. In the same vein, it is best to avoid stands of trees if possible because the risk of flying debris and lightning strikes are both higher there. If you cannot reach a permanent building, your best bet is to look for a cave, ditch, rock overhang, etc. Any of these will provide more protection than a tent or a backcountry lean-to.

You will definitely want to put your rain gear on to protect against hypothermia, the same as you would during a severe thunderstorm. And bringing your first-aid/safety kit is a very good idea."

"A thorough outline of safety precautions to take while camping in extreme weather can be found here":

Last edited by Tripper_Scott (10/07/2018 9:36 pm)


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