Use the menus below to view safety tips which will make your trip to the park a safer experience. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and each park does not have all activities.
Also, parks may have specific safety recommendations related to the activities available only in that park. Please refer to your park of choice for such park-specific safety suggestions. For other safety tips or for an explanation of park rules and policies, please contact park staff.
Parks' staffs work hard to make your visit a safe and enjoyable time, but the parks are natural environments which require your planning, alertness and respect to assure that you are as safe as possible. Please act responsibly and have safe trip.
Safety During Activities
|Insects and Snakes||Hiking|
|If You Are Lost||Swimming and Water|
|Trip Planning and Supplies|
Be prepared for emergencies. Bring a cell phone for use during emergencies and learn where emergency phones and help are located in the park.
State parks are great places to explore nature. If you are planning an adventure in a state park, here are a few tips to make your visit safer:
For other safety tips or for an explanation of park rules, contact park staff.
Travel with a friend; don't go alone.
Get a weather report for the area, and wear the proper clothes and equipment. Bring additional clothing for unexpected weather.
Be prepared for emergencies. Bring a cell phone and the phone number of the state park you're visiting for use during emergencies. Learn where emergency phones and help are located in the park.
Consider planning your route using US Geological Survey topographical maps, especially if you are traveling long distances through secluded wilderness.
Leave your trip information, including the time you'll return from your state park visit, with a responsible person.
Remember to bring water for both you and your pets.
Avoid overexertion. Heat and wind may be tiring and may cause dehydration.
Ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes and other insects may be encountered in the park. Insect repellent should be used.
Venomous snakes may be encountered along park trails. Be cautious and alert. Treat any encounter with snakes with caution and respect.
Poison oak and poison ivy may be found along park trails. Be alert.
No one expects to get lost in the woods, but it sometimes happens. If one day you become lost, don't worry! Our park rangers and search and rescue teams will find you. In the meantime, here are some tips that will help you survive and help our search teams find you quickly.
Stop, look and listen. Do you see a familiar landmark? Do you hear traffic noises? If not, stay in one place and do not wander. If you are lost, park rangers will notice your vehicle in the parking lot. Or, if you leave a trip plan with a friend or relative, they will call the park when you don't arrive home on time. Immediately, park rangers and search and rescue teams will begin looking for you. The people who are looking for you search for clues that will lead them to you. So, if you stay in one place, you will be found faster and you will not walk away from the searchers who are following the trail you have already left. Also, if you are lost and begin running around trying to find out where you are, especially in the dark, you risk falling or injuring yourself.
Stick together. If you are hiking with a friend or a pet, never split up. Stay together. Not only will you have a companion there to comfort you while waiting for the rescuers, your friend or pet is a good source of warmth. If you become cold, huddle together to get warm.
Keep warm and dry. Your clothes will help you stay warm, so don't take them off. In cool weather, zip up or button your jacket and put on a hat and mittens, if you have them. To keep dry, find a waiting place that is out of the wind and rain. But, be careful to choose a place where searchers can see you. Sometimes the best place to stay is under a large tree. Never lie on the cold, bare ground except if you are signaling to an aircraft overhead. If you want to lie down, build a thick mattress using branches, moss, leaves and other natural items. Once you are on the mattress, you can use more moss and leaves as a blanket but make sure something colorful is noticeable in case someone looking for you walks nearby.
Attract attention. Put out something bright or make something that will draw attention to where you are. Hang white paper or tie a hair ribbon on a tree limb. Put a shiny coin in a place where a rescuer might see it. Spell 'Help' or 'SOS' on the ground using rocks and sticks, or create a large arrow on the ground pointing to where you are. Make anything that will attract attention.
Help rescuers find you. If you hear someone or something coming, make a noise. If the noise is an animal, it will run away. If the noise is someone looking for you, the person will come to you. Never run in the direction of the noise. If your waiting place is near an open space like a meadow and you hear an aircraft coming, you should go to the open place, lay down and wave your arms and legs. This will help searchers see you better from the air. Stand up immediately after the aircraft passes so you won't get cold from lying on bare ground.
Be careful of what you put in your mouth. Do not eat anything you are unsure of. Wild berries, fruit and mushrooms may make you sick. If you must have drinking water, lick dew off forest leaves.
Stay calm and don't worry. Take comfort in knowing that people are looking for you.
(The information on what to do when lost was based on 'Child Survival: Lost in the Woods' by Wake County Public Safety and the Wake County Emergency Management Division.)
If you are planning a long trip through state park wilderness, it is a good idea to share your trip plans with a relative, friend or responsible person such as a park ranger.
Tell them where you're going and when you will return, the names of people going with you, your vehicle type and color, and your license plate number.
Stick with your trip plan or notify the responsible party of any changes.
You can use this form to share your plans with a responsible person, or you can leave it on your vehicle's dashboard.
Be alert to approaching storms and seek appropriate shelter. Return to your vehicle or the nearest park building immediately. Do not remain on rock outcrops, in open fields or in the forest under tall trees.
Dress appropriately. Check with park staff regarding weather and terrain.
Protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of water
Always come prepared for changing weather conditions. Bring extra clothing and rain gear with you in case it's needed.
In windy conditions, avoid forested areas where tree limbs may fall.
Do not feed or approach wildlife. North Carolina is experiencing a rise in rabies cases. Report sick or aggressive animals to a ranger.
Do not leave food items lying around your camp, as this could attract unwanted wildlife visitors.
Be sure your boat is properly registered and equipped with safety devices.
Unfamiliar waters may be hazardous; exercise cautious seamanship.
When on or near the water, wear a life vest.
Do not water ski in boat launching, mooring, or pier areas.
Know the river conditions for the section of river you plan to paddle and advise someone of your float plan.
At times rivers and creeks may be dangerous for canoeing. Check with park staff on water levels and conditions before embarking on a canoe trip.
Do not canoe alone. Canoe with a partner or group.
When on or near the water, wear a life vest.
In the event of a canoe spill, stay on the upstream side of your boat to avoid being pinned against a rock.
Only those familiar with the area should canoe in remote locations.
Be careful with fires when cooking or camping.
Do not leave food items lying around your camp as it may attract unwanted wildlife visitors.
When hiking stay on designated trails. Steep drop-offs, poisonous plants and unstable footing may exist beyond the trail. Also, fragile plant communities may be damaged if you leave the trail.
Get a park map before hiking park trails to be certain of your location.
Dress properly and carry the proper equipment.
Do not hike alone. Hike with a partner or group.
When in high places, remember that others may be below; do not throw or dislodge rocks.
Remember daylight hours are shorter in the fall and winter. Be sure to plan your hike so that you avoid being caught by darkness, and exit the park or return to your vehicle or campsite before park closing.
Use extreme caution when hiking on wet rocks. Wear proper footwear.
Boardwalks and bridges may be slippery when wet; exercise caution.
Should you plan a long hike or side trip, make your plans known to park staff.
Avoid steep drop-offs and slick areas along rivers, creeks and streams.
Use caution when hiking near cliffs. Stay away from cliff faces and waterfalls.
Learn to swim; it's never too late!
Wear a life vest when in or near the water.
Distances across rivers or coves are always farther than they appear!
Dangerous currents and sharp drop-offs may not be visible
Swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
Know your swimming abilities and heat tolerance, and don't exceed your limits.
Never dive head-first into a lake or river.
Swim only in designated safe areas.
Never swim under the influence of alcohol or medications.
Never swim when you hear thunder or see lightning.
Never run, push, or jump on others around water.
Watch your children around water. Children should remain under close supervision at all times. Never leave children alone near water.
Children should wear personal flotation devices when playing in or near water. Inflatable inner tubes and 'water wings' are not safety devices. Life jacket loaners are offered on site free of charge.
Young children and infants should be within arm's reach every second.
Teach children to swim by age 4.
If you find someone in trouble in the water:
N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation • 1615 MSC • Raleigh N.C. 27699-1615