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The Ottawa River is large and powerful. It can be warm, lazy, and slow, or cold, stormy, and fast. It demands respect. Aside from the obvious risk of drowning, hypothermia and cold water shock are serious considerations. In the spring and fall cold water and cooler air is a hazard; even in mid-summer, prolonged exposure can lead to hypothermia. 

Hypothermia has been defined as "a decrease in the core body temperature to a level at which normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired." 
  1. The progressive symptoms of hypothermia according to The Canada Safe Boating Guide: 
  2. Shivering, slurred speech, and semi-consciousness 
  3. Slow and weak pulse, slow respiration, lack of coordination, irrational behaviour, and confused behaviour 
  4. Weak, irregular or absent pulse or respiration 
  5. Loss of consciousness 

Some websites refer to the umbles stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles as signs of hypothermia – these show that cold is affecting how well a person’s muscles and nerves work. 

Cold water shock results from being suddenly immersed in cold water. It can paralyze your muscles instantly, and cause gasping for breath, muscle spasms, or, in extreme cases, a stroke or heart attack. 

For more information on hypothermia and cold water shock and their treatment see