Trip Plan is Key to Desert Safety

La Paz County Sheriff’s Office


Each year thousands of people come to La Paz County to enjoy the beauty of our desert. They come here for the mountains, the rivers, the lakes and most importantly the citizens of La Paz County. We welcome these visitors and want them to enjoy our home as much as we do. We also want them to return to their homes safely. However, that is not always the case. Both visitors and local residents alike sometimes make poor choices and place themselves in danger. The desert is a beautiful place, but can also be a danger to you if you are not careful.

When venturing into the desert, or anywhere where hazards exist, be prepared. Have a flight plan, float plan, trip plan… whatever you want to call it. But have a plan. Pilots file flight plans to protect them in case of an emergency. Boaters can use float plans. Everyone else should have a trip plan. Weather you are on foot, horseback, motorcycle, jeep or camel, have a plan. When you do not arrive at your destination on time, people start looking for you.

So what exactly is a Trip Plan? A trip plan is a written plan that explains:

  • Your destination
  • The route you are taking
  • Those who are in the group
  • Your return time
  • Purpose of the trip
  • Your route
  • An alternate route
  • Transportation you are using
  • Equipment and supplies taken

You leave this with one or two trusted friends so that when you do not return on time they can call the cavalry to get help looking for you.

As important as the plan is, you must also be prepared for your chosen recreation. Be fit enough to go. The distance takes physical preparation.

Many people who have an outdoor misadventure quickly point out that having and using some essential items insured their survival. Ten essential items are:

  1. Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
  2. Fire making kit – waterproof matches, lighter, fire starter/candle
  3. Signaling device – whistle or mirror to signal searchers if you become lost
  4. Extra food and water – 1 liter/person
  5. Extra clothes, it gets cold at night
  6. Navigation/Communication Aids (map, compass, GPS, cell phone, hand held radio, fully charged, with extra batteries) – make sure you know how to use these devices
  7. First Aid Kit
  8. Emergency Shelter
  9. Pocket Knife
  10. Sun protection (glasses, hat, sunscreen)

You might say to yourself that you don’t need a Trip Plan and don’t need to bring all that stuff. You might then say to yourself, you are only going out for an early morning ATV ride to take your two dogs to the river. Then you find yourself 13 miles from home with a 600-pound vehicle that will not start after you ran it out of gas. No cranking or pushing is going to help, and you end up leaving it for the snakes and coyotes.

This very incident happened recently in La Paz County near Alamo Lake. The missing person was last seen six (6) days before he was reported missing. He left his trailer without informing anyone where he was going and did not take any of the 10 mentioned essential survival items. This person had bad knees, a bad back and had difficulty walking. He and his dogs ended up walking five (5) miles before he and one of his dogs succumbed to the elements. If he had a Trip Plan and had taken those essential items, chances are, he would be alive today.

Thousands of people venture out into the desert and return safely. They return safely by being prepared. It might be okay to walk down the street without drinking water, but to go out into the desert during the summer without it or other essentials is dangerous and possibly deadly. Stay safe!

Sergeant John Quandel
La Paz County Sheriff Search & Rescue

One comment

  1. Patti Wickham Hellman

    Good reminder for all of us. Thanks

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