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Porcupine Mountains Expand Efforts to Keep Visitors Safe

It is the largest section of wilderness in Michigan and home to many of the state’s favorite attractions. The Porcupine Mountains consists of 60,000 acres of old growth hardwood forests, the only such left in the state. Last year the park set record for attendance and this year has been no different. According to park manager Michael Knack this means that the search and rescue team who watch over the park must remain diligent in their efforts.

Last year we had 600,000 visitors, before covid we averaged 400 to 450,000. And this year we are on track to get 600,000 if not more. So with increased amount of visitors, there’s an increase to search and rescues. Yesterday we went on our 40 search and rescue or emergency response. we average 52 a year, and we are on pace to meet or exceed that in 2021. – Park Manager Michael Knack

The park is trying to better prepare their visitors by offering courses designed around the essentials to having a fun and safe hike.

So there’s a few different courses you can take to enhance your outdoor skills. here at the park specifically our park interpreter offers classes each day. We’re excited deploy a whole new trail marking system. the Friends of the Porkies has been raising money for upgrading and marking them. our back-country crew has been replacing them with carbonate signs and stickers that are more directional at every intersection, so hopefully we’ve got less people getting lost out there.

But the search and rescue team must remain vigilant to keep guests in the best health.

A lot of times we’re bringing someone out in a rescue litter. and it takes 6-8 people to operate that effectively, and goes at about 1 mph to bring somebody out. If its a major emergency well call in for air support, but because its’ so rugged there’s not a lot of places to take that thing that are safe. so we’re always racing against the clock if its a medical emergency, but its a lot more challenging if they’re lost.

Because of the wilderness park’s distance from nearby medical care, time is always against the crew. The team’s primary goal in the case of a severe incident is to get the victim to more advance treatment with the “golden-hour”.  The search and rescue team, with the addition of new trail markers, courses, and reliable equipment can better take on the task.  But they will always remain on guard to react as quickly as possible.

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