of American Whitewater
Your personal preparedness and
be a competent
swimmer, with the
ability to handle yourself underwater.
wear a life jacket.
a snugly-fitting vest-type life preserver offers back and shoulder
protection as well as the flotation needed to swim safely in whitewater.
wear a solid,
when upsets are likely.
this is essential in kayaks or covered canoes, and recommended for open
canoeists using thigh straps and rafters running steep drops.
do not boat out of
your skills should be sufficient
to stop or reach shore before reaching danger. do not enter a rapid
unless you are reasonably sure that you can run it safely or swim it
whitewater rivers contain
many hazards which are not
always easily recognized. the following are the most frequent killers.
the river's speed and power increase tremendously as the flow
increases, raising the difficulty of most rapids. rescue becomes
progressively harder as the water rises, adding to the danger.
floating debris and strainers make even an easy rapid quite hazardous.
it is often misleading to judge the river level at the put in, since a
small rise in a wide, shallow place will be multiplied many times
where the river narrows. use reliable gauge information whenever
possible, and be aware that sun on snowpack, hard rain, and upstream
dam releases may greatly increase the flow.
cold drains your strength and robs you of the ability to make sound
decisions on matters affecting your survival. cold water immersion,
because of the initial shock and the rapid heat loss which follows, is
especially dangerous. dress appropriately for bad weather or sudden
immersion in the water. when the water temperature is less than 50
degree f., a wetsuit or drysuit is essential for protection if you
swim. next best is wool or pile clothing under a waterproof shell. in
this case, you should also carry waterproof matches and a change of
clothing in a waterproof bag. if, after prolonged exposure, a person
experiences uncontrollable shaking, loss of coordination, or
difficulty speaking, he or she is hypothermic, and needs your
brush, fallen trees, bridge pilings, undercut rocks or anything else
which allows river current to sweep through can pin boats and boaters
against the obstacle. water pressure on anything trapped this way can
be overwhelming. rescue is often extremely difficult. pinning may
occur in fast current, with little or not whitewater to warn of the
dams, wiers, ledges,
reversals, holes, and hydraulics.
when water drops over a obstacle, it curls back on itself, forming a
strong upstream current which may be capable of holding a boat or
swimmer. some holes make for excellent sport. others are proven
killers. paddlers who cannot recognize the difference should
avoid all but the smallest holes. hydraulics around
man-made dams must be treated with utmost respect regardless of their
height or the level of the river. despite their seemingly benign
appearance, they can create an almost escape-proof trap. the swimmers
only exit from the
"drowning machine" is to dive below the surface when the downstream
current is flowing beneath the reversal.
when a boat is pushed sideways against a rock by strong current, it
may collapse and wrap. this is especially dangerous to kayak and
decked canoe paddlers; these boats will collapse and the combination
of indestructible hulls and tight outfitting may create a deadly trap.
even without entrapment, releasing pinned boats can be extremely
time-consuming and dangerous. to avoid pinning, throw your weight
downstream towards the rock. this allows the current to slide
harmlessly underneath the hull.
the minimum party is three people or two craft.
frank knowledge of your
and don't attempt rivers or
rapids which lie beyond that ability.
paddling skills and teamwork
required to match the river you plan to boat. most good paddlers
develop skills gradually, and attempts to advance too quickly will
compromise your safety and enjoyment.
good physical and mental condition,
consistent with the difficulties which may be expected. make
adjustments for loss of skills due to age, health, fitness. any health
limitations must be explained to your fellow paddlers prior to
starting the trip.
practiced in self-rescue,
including escape from
an overturned craft. the eskimo roll is strongly recommended for decked
boaters who run rapids class iv or greater, or who paddle in cold
trained in rescue skills,
cpr, and first aid with
special emphasis on the recognizing and treating hypothermia. it may
save your friend's life.
needed for unexpected emergencies,
including foot wear which will protect your feet when walking out, a
throw rope, knife, whistle, and waterproof matches. if you wear
eyeglasses, tie them on and carry a spare pair on long trips. bring
cloth repair tape on short runs, and a full repair kit on isolated
rivers. do not wear bulky jackets, ponchos, heavy boots, or anything
else which could reduce your ability to survive a swim.
the mutually supportive group structure described in this code,
individual paddlers are ultimately
responsible for their own safety, and must assume sole responsibility
for the following decisions:
the decision to
participate on any trip. this includes an evaluation of the expected
difficulty of the rapids under the conditions existing at the time of
the selection of
appropriate equipment, including a boat design suited to their skills
and the appropriate rescue and survival gear.
the decision to scout
any rapid, and to run or portage according to their best judgment.
other members of the group may offer advice, but paddlers should
resist pressure from anyone to paddle beyond their skills. it is also
their responsibility to decide whether to pass up any walk-out or
all trip participants
should consistently evaluate their own and their group's safety,
voicing their concerns when appropriate and following what they
believe to be the best course of action. paddlers are encouraged to
speak with anyone whose actions on the water are dangerous, whether
they are a part of your group or not.
ii. boat and equipment
test new and different
familiar conditions before relying on it for difficult runs. this is
especially true when adopting a new boat design or outfitting system.
low volume craft may present additional hazards to inexperienced or
poorly conditioned paddlers.
your boat and gear are in
good repair before
starting a trip. the more isolated and difficult the run, the more
rigorous this inspection should be.
in non-inflatable craft, securely fixed in each end, designed to
displace as much water as possible. inflatable boats should have
multiple air chambers and be test inflated before launching.
strong, properly sized
paddles or oars for
controlling your craft. carry sufficient spares for the length and
difficulty of the trip.
your boat safely. the
ability to exit your boat
quickly is an essential
component of safety in rapids. it is your responsibility to see that
there is absolutely nothing to cause entrapment when coming free of an
upset craft. this includes:
spray covers which
won't release reliably or which release prematurely.
boat outfitting too
tight to allow a fast exit, especially in low volume kayaks or decked
canoes. this includes low hung thwarts in canoes lacking adequate
clearance for your feet and kayak footbraces which fail or allow your
feet to become wedged under them.
decks which collapse on a paddler's legs when a decked boat is pinned
by water pressure. inadequate clearance with the deck because of your
size or build.
loose ropes which
cause entanglement. beware of any length of loose line attached to a
whitewater boat. all items must be tied tightly and excess line
eliminated; painters, throw lines, and safety rope systems must be
completely and effectively stored. do not knot the end of a rope, as
it can get caught in cracks between rocks.
which permit you to hold on to your craft so that it may be rescued. the
following methods are recommended:
kayaks and covered
canoes should have grab loops of 1/4'' + rope or equivalent webbing
sized to admit a normal sized hand. stern painters are permissible if
open canoes should
have securely anchored bow and stern painters consisting of 8 - 10
feet of 1/4'' + line. these must be secured in such a way that they
are readily accessible, but cannot come loose accidentally. grab loops
are acceptable, but are more difficult to reach after an upset.
rafts and dories may
have taut perimeter lines threaded through the loops provided.
footholds should be designed so that a paddler's feet cannot be forced
through them, causing entrapment. flip lines should be carefully and
know your craft's
carrying capacity, and how added
loads affect boat handling in whitewater. most rafts have a minimum crew
size which can be added to on day trips or in easy rapids. carrying more
than two paddlers in an open canoe when running rapids is not
car top racks
must be strong and attach positively to the vehicle. lash your boat to
each crossbar, then tie the ends of the boats directly to the bumpers
for added security. this arrangement should survive all but the most
violent vehicle accident.
iii. group preparedness
a river trip should be regarded as a common adventure by all
participants, except on instructional or commercially guided trips as
defined below. participants share the responsibility for the conduct of
the trip, and each participant is individually responsible for judging
his or her own capabilities and for his or her own safety as the trip
progresses. participants are encouraged (but are not obligated) to offer
advice and guidance for the independent consideration and judgment of
the group should have a reasonable knowledge of the difficulty of the
run. participants should evaluate this information and adjust their
plans accordingly. if the run is exploratory or no one is familiar with
the river, maps and guidebooks, if available, should be examined. the
group should secure accurate flow information; the more difficult the
run, the more important this will be. be aware of possible changes in
river level and how this will affect the difficulty of the run. if the
trip involves tidal stretches, secure appropriate information on tides.
group equipment should
be suited to the difficulty of the river.
the group should always have a throw line available, and one line per
boat is recommended on difficult runs. the list may include: carbiners,
prussick loops, first aid kit, flashlight, folding saw, fire starter,
guidebooks, maps, food, extra clothing, and any other rescue or survival
items suggested by conditions. each item is not required on every run,
and this list is not meant to be a substitute for good judgment.
keep the group compact, but maintain sufficient spacing to
avoid collisions. if the group is large, consider dividing into smaller
groups or using the "buddy
system" as an additional
safeguard. space yourselves closely enough to permit good communication,
but not so close as to interfere with one another in rapids.
a point paddler
sets the pace. when in front, do not get in over your head. never run
drops when you cannot see a clear route to the bottom or, for advanced
paddlers, a sure route to the next eddy. when in doubt, stop and
keep track of all
group members. each boat keeps
the one behind it in sight, stopping if necessary. know how many
people are in your group and take head counts regularly. no one should
paddle ahead or walk out without first informing the group. paddlers
requiring additional support should stay at the center of a group, and
not allow themselves to lag behind in the more difficult rapids. if
the group is large and contains a wide range of abilities, a ˘sweep
boat'' may be designated to bring up the rear.
on heavily used rivers, do not cut in front of a boater running a
drop. always look upstream before leaving eddies to run or play. never
enter a crowded drop or eddy when no room for you exists. passing
other groups in a rapid may be hazardous: it's often safer to wait
upstream until the group ahead has passed.
if the trip is into a wilderness area or for an extended period, plans
should be filed with a responsible person who will contact the
authorities if you are overdue. it may be wise to establish checkpoints
along the way where civilization could be contacted if necessary.
knowing the location of possible help and preplanning escape routes can
the use of alcohol or mind altering drugs before or during river trips
is not recommended. it dulls reflexes, reduces decision making ability,
and may interfere with important survival reflexes.
commercially guided trips.
in contrast to the common adventure trip format, in these trip formats,
a boating instructor or commercial guide assumes some of the
responsibilities normally exercised by the group as a whole, as
appropriate under the circumstances. these formats recognize that
instructional or commercially guided trips may involve participants who
lack significant experience in whitewater. however, as a participant
acquires experience in whitewater, he or she takes on increasing
responsibility for his or her own safety, in accordance with what he or
she knows or should know as a result of that increased experience. also,
as in all trip formats, every participant must realize and assume the
risks associated with the serious hazards of whitewater rivers. it is
advisable for instructors and commercial guides or their employers to
acquire trip or personal liability insurance:
iv. guidelines for river
trip'' is characterized by a clear teacher/pupil relationship, where
the primary purpose of the trip is to teach boating skills, and which
is conducted for a fee.
a ˘commercially guided
trip'' is characterized by a licensed, professional guide conducting
trips for a fee.
from an upset with an eskimo roll
whenever possible. evacuate your boat immediately if there is imminent
danger of being trapped against rocks, brush, or any other kind of
if you swim, hold on to
your boat. it has much flotation
and is easy for rescuers to spot. get to the upstream end so that you
cannot be crushed between a rock and your boat by the force of the
current. persons with good balance may be able to climb on top of a
swamped kayak or flipped raft and paddle to shore.
release your craft if
this will improve your chances,
especially if the water is cold or dangerous rapids lie ahead. actively
attempt self-rescue whenever possible by swimming for safety. be
prepared to assist others who may come to your aid.
when swimming in
shallow or obstructed rapids,
lie on your back with feet held high and pointed downstream. do not
attempt to stand in fast moving water; if your foot wedges on the
bottom, fast water will push you under and keep you there. get to slow
or very shallow water before attempting to stand or walk. look ahead!
avoid possible pinning situations including undercut rocks, strainers,
downed trees, holes, and other dangers by swimming away from them.
if the rapids are deep
and powerful, roll over onto
your stomach and swim aggressively for shore. watch for eddies and
slackwater and use them to get out of the current. strong swimmers can
effect a powerful upstream ferry and get to shore fast. if the shores
are obstructed with strainers or under cut rocks, however, it is safer
to ˘ride the rapid out'' until a safer escape can be found.
if others spill
and swim, go after the boaters first.
rescue boats and equipment only if this can be done safely. while
participants are encouraged (but not obligated) to assist one another to
the best of their ability, they should do so only if they can, in their
judgment, do so safely. the first duty of a rescuer is not to compound
the problem by becoming another victim.
the use of rescue
lines requires training; uninformed use may cause injury. never tie
yourself into either end of a line without a reliable quick-release
system. have a knife handy to deal with unexpected entanglement. learn
to place set lines effectively, to throw accurately, to belay
effectively, and to properly handle a rope thrown to you.
when reviving a
drowning victim, be
aware that cold water
may greatly extend survival time underwater. victims of hypothermia may
have depressed vital signs so they look and feel dead. don't give up;
continue cpr for as long as possible without compromising safety.
v. universal river signals
these signals may be substituted with an alternate set of signals agreed
upon by the group.
potential hazard ahead. wait for "all
clear" signal before
proceeding, or scout ahead. form a horizontal bar with your outstretched
arms. those seeing the signal should pass it back to others in the party.
assist the signaler as
quickly as possible. give three long blasts on a police whistle while
waving a paddle, helmet or life vest over your head. if a whistle is not
available, use the visual signal alone. a whistle is best carried on a
lanyard attached to your life vest.
come ahead (in the absence of other directions
proceed down the center). form a vertical bar with your paddle or one arm
held high above your head. paddle blade should be turned flat for maximum
visibility. to signal direction or a preferred course through a rapid
around obstruction, lower the previously vertical "all
clear" by 45 degrees
toward the side of the river with the preferred route. never point toward
the obstacle you wish to avoid.
i'm ok and not hurt. while
holding the elbow outward toward the side, repeatedly pat the top of your