Butte County offers an incredible amount of off-highway recreation opportunities all year round, whether 4-wheeling in the High Lakes area, riding ATV’s on French Creek Road, to snowmobiling the Jonesville loop. While many enjoy adventures on these popular trails, some occasionally have misadventures and need our team’s assistance. Following some simple guidelines will improve your chances of having a safe and fun filled motorized adventures enjoying Butte County’s backcountry.
Let someone know your plans – Make sure to tell someone exactly when and where you are planning to ride, including where you plan to launch, what vehicles or equipment you are taking, and when you expect to be back. This person can relay information to authorities if you haven’t returned within a reasonable amount of time. Need to report someone who is lost, missing or overdue in Butte County? Contact BCSO at 530-538-7321 who will dispatch our team if needed.
Be a defensive driver – Always be alert to your surroundings and aware of potential danger. Engine noise and helmets may reduce your ability to hear other riders. Slow down around blind corners and intersections. Watch out for obstacles on the trail or road, and don’t assume that others can see you!
Ride in groups – Riding in the backcountry alone poses greater risk than riding in groups. Having a partner may mean the difference between life and death if you experience an injury or accident.
Dress appropriately – Make sure your clothing is appropriate for the type of riding and weather you are going to experience. Dress in layers, and make sure you avoid cotton in the winter. Consider clothing purposely designed for the type of ride you are going on.
Equipment Readyness – Maintain your vehicles per the manufacturer recommended schedule and perform an inspection before and after each use. Make sure your vehicle is ready for the type of trail and weather you are about to ride.
Carry the 10 Essentials – Many people who have survived backcountry disasters have pointed out that they were able to survive by carrying the traditional “10 Essentials” in their pack or vehicle. We have modernized that list and have a listed those items below
The 10 Essentials
- Flashlight and spare batteries – Keep at least one primary flashlight and one backup in your pack. Carry spare batteries and know how to change them out.
- Food and water – If your 3 hour ride turns into an overnight orderal, having extra food and water can make it much more manageable. Carrying foods with moderate calories and protein will help sustain your energy level and help your body fight off hypothermia too!
- Spare clothing – Keep a spare set of clothes in case you become cold or wet. Keeping dry and shielded from wind can make a huge difference.
- Navigation – Carry a handheld GPS, as well as compass, map, and any other devices that will help you determine exactly where you are at, and where you need to go. Mobile phones have become easily the most popular navigating device, but many apps become useless outside of cell data range, and battery life is also limited. Find out what your favorite navigation apps do when out of cell range, and consider carrying a portable USB battery charger.
- Fire Starter – Carry at least 2 or 3 methods to start a fire. Starting a fire not only provides warmth and comfort when stranded, it will also help our team locate you!
- First Aid Kit – Even a small injury can become a big deal if you have nothing to treat it with. Keep this kit stocked with supplies so you can treat a cut or laceration in the field, or immobilize a broken limb.
- Shelter – From a small tarp and space blanket, to a mylar Bivvy sac, these items will shelter you from wind and rain.
- Sun Protection – Very important during the summer, but equally as important in the winter, the sun can be beneficial and harmful to folks in the backcountry. Make sure you have appropriate sunscreen and eye protection to keep you shielded from the affects of the sun.
- Knife or multi-tool – Keep a knive for multitool for quick repairs, making fire kindling, and hundreds of other uses.
- Signaling device – Having all the right gear can only carry you so far. If you are stranded, you need to let others know you need help. Signaling devices can be as simple as a whistle, signal mirror, or brightly colored tarp. Cell phones have become slightly more reliable in the backcountry, but service is still very limited. Consider carrying a satellite based messenger device. Much cheaper than a satellite phone, these devices can pair to your smartphone and provide 2-way texting, low speed data, navigation and SOS services. Also consider two-way radio service, such as Ham Radio, CB, GMRS or Family Radio Service.
At all times riders should be courteous and safe. Respect all applicable laws and obey all trail signage. Be aware of the property you are on, and respect the landowners property that has made your ride possible. Be aware of other riders and operate at reasonable speeds at all times to prevent injuries and accidents to yourself and others who may be near.
Additional information on OHV Safety and Laws can be found at the California State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle website
Questions on OHV riding and safety in Butte County? Feel free to reach our team by visiting our contact page