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In 1976 the American Canoe Association issued a "Cruise Leader's Guide" to give canoe and kayak trip leaders a starting point for running safe and enjoyable trips.  The guide was an almost complete reference to the logistics and safety considerations of boating expeditions.  The "Cruise Leaders Guide" is still a valuable reference for anyone undertaking an adventure trip. It is owned by the ACA and is reproduced here with permission.  RiverGrizzly thanks the ACA and Ronald Hilbert. 

Some things have changed since 1976.  The river rating scale is somewhat modified (see "American Whitewater" September/ October 1997, page 95) but the essentials are the same.  The gear list can be enhanced with more modern materials, such as, polypropylene, fleece, dry suits and water filters.  Some safety equipment might be added, such as, prussic line, webbing and carabiners. For paddle signals refer to the AWA safety code. Ammo boxes are out and plastic boxes are in. 

However, the most important change since the '70s is that the legal system has made trip leading not only passé, but downright dangerous to your financial well being.  Calling yourself a trip leader exposes you to lawsuits by injured or inconvenienced individuals or their relatives.  As a consequence, the current practice is to call club outings a "shared adventure" and to avoid any appearance of anyone being in charge of anything (refer to the AWA safety code).  Instructional trips are the exception.  Instructors cannot avoid being in charge. Of course, many excellent leaders and instructors have stopped sharing their knowledge with us for fear of being sued.  The "Cruise Leader's Guide" contains the knowledge they would have shared. 

It is in that spirit that RiverGrizzly issues the following disclaimer: 
( Good  advice ) adapted from the Three Rivers Paddling Club of Pittsburgh PA. 

Whitewater paddling should be undertaken only by groups of individuals all of whom have prior training and adequate equipment. The  information on this web site is provided only as a convenience for such individuals. RiverGrizzly and its principles  assume no liability for accidents that may occur in the pursuit of activities based on this information. The sole responsibility for safety lies with the participant.  

So, without further ado, we present the ACA ...





The following is a compilation of existing information which has been used for years. This is a guide to help sanction, organize, conduct cruises and camping. Remember that you are the American Canoe Association so treat people as you yourself would want to be treated. Always keep learning, keep an open mind, and keep thinking of ways to run safe and interesting cruises. Recreation is a cure for social ills; so let's have a healthy attitude. 

I also want to thank everyone who contributed to this guide. 

Ronald D. Hilbert 
National Cruising Chairman 

Camping manners for river cruising 
Car pools 
Cruising leaders training classes  
Duties of sweep 
First aid 
Float plan 
Laws and river use rights 
Life vests 
Personal liability Insurance 
Pre-trip planning 
Rescue class 
Rescue equipment 
River courtesy 
River hazard 
River running 
Scale for grading the difficulty of river cruising 
Scheduling of trips 
Suggested equipment list 
Swamping and swimming 
Transportation of equipment 
Trip leader expenses 
Trip rosters

( 1 ) 

Cruising Leaders Training Classes: Classes should be given by the Divisional Cruising Chairman once each year or more often, at the beginning of the cruising season in your area. Announce the class in your divisional newsletter to interest new people in leading cruises and reorganize people who have led cruises in the past. 

Encourage leaders to communicate with other leaders and share good and bad experiences on cruises so everyone can profit. You will receive great personal rewards for your efforts and many new friends as a cruising leaders. 

First Aid: There is no substitute for American Red Cross First Aid and CPR training. Classes can be arranged for your cruise leaders by the Red Cross in your area during the year. The more leaders that are Red Cross certified, the safer your division trips will be. 

Membership: All cruising trip leaders must be American Canoe Association dues-paid governing members of family members. 

Why a Leader and a Sweep? If each member of the group will care for himself and his equipment, and lend a hand when there is a job to be done, no one will complain. However, the group welfare may be neglected unless made the specific responsibility of the leader and the sweep. The leader must be considerate. It follows that the others should consider his feelings. Remind each member of his individual responsibility in keeping the group compact and intact between the leader and the sweep. Designate the sweep (capable rear boater with knowledge of rescue) before the trip. If he is unable to make it, the leader will have plenty of time to ask another capable paddler. 

Duties of sweep: 1. Rescue. 2. Be prepared to take charge of the group if something happens to the leader. You are the leader's back-up. Help him in making important decisions for group comfort and safety. 3. The sweep should keep the group together so that any paddler could be rescued in a minimum amount of time. Don't let boats get too far behind. The leader should encourage faster or stronger boats to play the rapids to allow the others to catch up. 4. When touring, make sure campfire is out, no one has left anything, and the campsite is cleaner than when the group arrived. 5. Sweep and lead boats carry group first aid kits and rescue lines. 

Pre-trip Planning: 1. Accept phone calls cheerfully for your trip and try to determine the experience of the paddler by asking questions, i.e.: 

A) What rivers have you paddled? 

B) Who was the leader? 

C) What kind of boat do you have? 

D) What paddling classes have you taken? 

E) Whom did you learn from? 

F) Who is your partner and has he/she had training? 

G) Have you been on a camping trip before? 

H) What kind of camping gear do you have? 

I) Are you an ACA member? (If the answer is no, bring extra applications) 

J) What is your present physical condition and your partners? 

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( 2 ) 

People will usually answer you honestly. Remind them that you are concerned about their safety and that you don't want them to get hurt or scared and never boat again. (The welfare of the group comes first and you must balance the experienced with less experienced paddlers.) Additional adult paddlers may be required for young and beginner boaters. 2. You should keep a 3 x 5 card file of names, addresses, phone numbers, and information which will help you remember the paddlers. 3. Your trip will normally be closed three days before the date you have set, or you will not be able to mail the necessary pre-trip information and directions in time. Last minute paddlers, unless you know them, never seem to work out. 4. Mail out pre-trip information and directions to the put-in. Draw a map if you can, and double check your information for accuracy, or your trip could start out poorly before you get on the river. How much confidence would you have in a leader who couldn't give you adequate directions to get to the put-in? 5. Request self-addressed, stamped envelopes for returning information. 

Skills required: Events are classified according to ability levels: Class , II, etc., beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and expert. The trip leader may disqualify any paddler who does not have proper equipment or paddling skills required for the trip. Paddlers are required to provide their own equipment. (The leader may bring a spare helmet, life jacket, and spray skirt, as these are the most commonly forgotten items.) 

Changes: Rapidly changing weather or water levels may change the rating and classification of a trip. This may force cancellation or choice of an alternate run. For this reason be sure to contact the leader at least one day in advance for final instructions. If a change is made from one run to another the difficulty should not be raised. 

Minors: The minor permission slip must be filled out for everyone under years of age, if not accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Obtain the form from the Division Cruising Chairman. If a minor is injured, and is taken to a facility for treatment, they will not treat a minor, unless accompanied by a parent, or the minor permission slip is present with both parents signatures, or legal guardian. If a minor is going to be on a trip or event have the slip filled out, and carried with the cruise leader or event chairman. After the trip attach the form to the roster to be sent to the Division Cruising Chairman. 

Car Pools: We encourage car pools on all cruises. The cruise trip leader will set up arrangements, if appropriate. 

Trip Leader expenses: The trip leader may ask for reimbursement of expenses incurred, which are not normal, of the trip participants. 

Scheduling of trips: Submit all trips you plan to lead for the ACA to the Club or Division Cruising Chairman for sanctioning. Indicate which are scouting trips, cruising trips, camping trips, and training clinics. (Training clinics require separate insurance coverage.) Include the prospective date and which ones are to be published in the division newsletter. 

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( 3 ) 

Types of boats: Allow all types of craft on your trip which are appropriate for the class of water you intend to paddle. Every member, whether he has a folboat, "rubber duckie", raft, canoe, or kayak is a paddler and we should encourage unity, so we can communicate when important legislation or harmful regulations threaten us. 

River conditions: Have knowledge of the river and difficult parts of the run at the relevant cfs level, the variation of which can change the difficulty of the run. If the trip may be necessary in advance. 

Accidents: When an accident occurs, take charge or delegate responsibility to a proper person and follow thru. The leader should administer first aid if appropriate, and/or remove the victim(s) by the best means available to the appropriate medical facility. Appoint the Sweep as leader and have him appoint a new Sweep. Notify the emergency phone number on the roster if necessary. Have in possession permission slip for minor if appropriate. 

Float Plan: If your trip is into a wilderness area, or for an extended period, your plans should be filed with an appropriate authority, or left with someone who will contact the authorities after a certain time. Establishment of check points along the way, at which civilization could be contacted if necessary, should be considered. Knowing location of help can speed rescue. Check in advance for locations of hospitals, sheriff phone numbers, etc. Obtain necessary campfire permits and find out fire conditions. Have access permission slips and group reservations where needed. 

Participants (put-in): Inform participants of expected river conditions, and where lunch-stop and take-out will be. Determine if prospective paddlers are qualified for the trip. All decisions should be based on group safety and comfort. Difficult decisions on the participation of paddlers with marginal ability must be based on the balance of experienced paddlers to the total group strength. 

Limit the size of the group: 1. Limit the size of the group to the number of boats the leader can control (usually eight for each leader and sweep). Keep your impact to a minimum on the land and in the eyes of those along the river. The easing of tension will be rewarding. If the group is larger than ten boats, divide into smaller groups, each of appropriate boating strength. Designate group leaders and sweeps. Sweeps should be of same ability of leaders. At this point it is important that there be a clear understanding of location of lunch stop, rest stops, and take-out point. 2. Never paddle with fewer than three boats. 3. The leader should pause soon after the start to make sure that every-one's equipment is working well. 4. Rest stops should be frequent enough to allow paddlers adequate time to stretch, and contain enough brush to provide needed privacy for paddlers to answer Nature's call (girls upstream, boys downstream). 5. When making rest stops the leader should make sure everyone gets an adequate chance to rest. Too often the leader will wait for a short rest until the sweep canoe catches up, only to strike out again, refreshed by his pause, the moment the tired sweep comes into view. 6. To prevent boats from bunching up at the top of a rapid or tricky spot, make each boater responsible for the paddlers in front of and behind him. Before each boater proceeds through the rapid, he should be sure the preceding boat has made it through. After each boater goes through the rapid, he should check to make sure the boat behind him has made it, and then proceed. 7. Control the pace and watch the time. If the group is spreading out, it could be the result of a novice having trouble with equipment, a blister, or the wind; or someone having a hard time catching up. (A paddler holding up the group may be peeved at the group for going too fast, and at the same time, feel guilty for holding it up.) He could tactfully be moved to the front of the group. There is a definite lift for the boaters who go first, and a corresponding let-down to being last. 8. Photography can make about as many momentary enemies on a trip as it makes fast friends back home. The paddler who himself does not see a good shot, often becomes impatient with the one who stops to take a picture. 

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( 4 ) 

Landowners: Among landowners there is a strong sense of private property. Many of them don't realize that the public may paddle down their" rivers. Do not try to argue your rights. Make friends with the landowners instead. Ask to have permission as needed. 

Fishermen: Fishermen, and everyone met, should be treated with consideration. Slip silently past so that they cannot possible think you scared the fish at the farthest safe distance possible. 

"Play the River." Shorten your mileage plans, have more fun, and learn more canoeing. 

Laws and River Use Rights: Section 652-F of the harbors and navigation code requires that canoes be equipped with one United States Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device for each person aboard. Littering is prohibited by law. Portages and stops: It is common law rule that if a dam or other obstruction has been constructed across a navigable water-way, the boater has the right to go above the high water make to portage around it. This also applies to natural obstructions. River access: State highways usually own 50 feet from the center on each side o a bridge, but county roads and bridges are on right-of-ways. The public probably has the right of access to the river, but it is not as clear as state highways. Barbed wire fences encountered on the river should be left alone as not to provoke the landowner. They are there to keep his cattle in, not to provoke the boater. 

Personal Liability insurance: 1. Your personal Homeowners/Renters liability insurance will cover you as a trip leader. However, average coverages are not enough. The recommended liability coverage is $300,000, which costs on the average of $6 to $10 a year. Phone your agent now and increase your coverage. 2. Insurance companies discourage first-aid treatment. First aid promptly given may save a life, it is not a substitute for medical treatment, but suggests the things to do until the doctor or emergency help arrives. 3. Rental of a private canoe to another person makes the renter legally liable and could be sued by the person who rented the canoe. Unless be obtains a commercial renters insurance policy from $500 to $800 a year. However, if you loan your canoe to someone else you are covered by a homeowners/renters facility insurance policy. Loan your canoe, don't rent it. Of course, with the understanding that any damage or loss will be paid for by the person who borrows it. 
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( 5 ) 

Trip Rosters: Cruise trip rosters must be completed at the put-in and turned in to the Division Cruising Chairman. Then forwarded before November to the National Cruising Chairman. Rosters are required for the following reasons: 

1. Insurance: Protects leaders on officially sanctioned trips. The completed roster is an important documentation that the trip was an authorized American Canoe Association trip. 

2. River use evidence: ACA trip rosters provide clear evidence of the extent of our use of a particular river, and makes it more difficult for government agencies to contend that only an occasional paddler uses the river. 

3. Establish navigability: Trip rosters provide evidence for establishing navigability which may influence a decision by a court or government agency declaring a river navigable, thus protecting paddlers from arrest or trespass charges. 

4. Reporting accidents: Report all accidents on the ACA accident report form. A Coast Guard report is required for death, serious injury requiring medical treatment, or loss of craft in excess of $100.00. An accident is defined as an event or occurrence, which is unforeseen and unintended, resulting in death, injury, or loss of craft valued over $100.00. Report on accident cause, rescue techniques, contributory factors, equipment failures, etc. Provide photographs or sketches if possible. Please be thorough as you can. Obtain the form from the Division Cruising Chairman. 

River Courtesy: 1. Boat proceeding downstream has the right-of-way. 2. Keep a reasonable distance between boats. 3. Remember C-ls can't easily back-paddle. 4. Remember open canoes, C-2s, and K-2s have a lot of momentum, so are difficult to stop. 5. Don't hog waves or good eddys. 6. Always help others. 7. Never boat with fewer than three boats. 8. Two boats do not go through a rapid at the same time. 9. Avoid the "needle nosed kayaks". 

River Running: 1. Notify the trip leader of any accident, cuts, etc., at once. 2. Permission to take children or passenger is obtained before the trip from the leader, otherwise only paddlers in each boat. 3. Girls upstream, boys downstream. Go far from the river, dig deep and bury. 4. A raised paddle means go to the nearest safe beach and stay there until you are told to proceed by the Leader or Sweep. (Unless you are needed in a rescue.) 5. Paddle in single file as ion. You may be assigned a position in line to balance strength in the group. 6. Do not pass the lead or .fall behind the sweep. 7. Be close enough to the boat in front of you to see which course it takes. The paddlers may signal you to take another route. 8. Don't move on until all boats are ready to go. Two boats do not go through a rapid at the same time. 9. Be sure the boat in front of you has safely run a rapid before you enter it. 10. Each boat is responsible for the one in front and behind. In case of a swim, get the people out first and then the boat. Downstream boats pick up any floating gear. Upstream paddlers help in the rescue. 11 . When you go through a rapid or a tricky spot, be sure to look behind you and make sure the next boat has made it, and then proceed. 12. Inform the boat behind you if there any obstacles in the water they should know about. 

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( 6 ) 

Camping Manners for River Cruising: Rivers will remain unspoiled only if protected and cared for by those who use them today. It is important that we set high standards for ourselves and minimize our impact as much as possible.' River cruising makes little impact on the environment. It is quiet and non-polluting. Except for the put-in, overnight campsites, and take-out, paddlers leave no trace. Good camping conduct is needed to keep our rivers clean and their value intact. You will discover an immense satisfaction in enjoying boating without depreciating the river in any way, and leaving no lasting sign. 

Construction: Camp in the river cruising spirit. Minimize building for kitchen emplacements and shelter. Don't disarrange the scene. Use tents or tarps. Never cut boughs or poles, or put nails in trees. Do not harm fragile vegetation. 

FiresNever leave a fire unattended! Build one minimum fireplace if you must have to fire at all. Don't place a fire against a log, back rock, or too close to tents or sleeping bags which blown sparks can burn. When breaking camp, drown the fire completely, stir, and drown again until all ashes are cold to touch. Bury ashes and charcoal. Use existing firesites where found. If necessary rebuild the original firesite. Return all fireplace rocks to natural positions when you leave, blackened portions hidden Keep fires small. Stoves should be used for cooking whenever possible. A 5" by 7" bladed shovel with a 12" handle is required by law to attend all fires. 

Wood: Use Dura-Flame or three hour logs whenever possible. Otherwise, use down wood only. Do not cut standing trees, living or dead...not break off their branches. Snags are picturesque and must not be molested. Ax work on down logs and stumps mars the atmosphere. Conserve wood. 

Bedsites: Don't excavate. Find a naturally level spot. Erase evidence of your bed when breaking camp. Double check area before you leave; forgotten laundry is litter. 

Sanitation: Go far from the water, dig deep, and bury. 

Washing: Use a small wash basin for laundry and sponge bathing. Keep soap or detergent out of rivers and lakes. Do your pot scrubbing and washing well back from the shore. Use a biodegradeable detergent. 

GarbageLittering is illegal! Place all your litter in a garbage bag for later disposal. Some may be disposed of in the fire. Burn what will burn. Edibles may be concealed or scattered well away from camp where animals can find them without digging. Be careful with broken glass. It is the duty of the Sweep to double check, making sure the campfire is out, no one has left anything, and the campsite is cleaner than when the group arrived. Carry a garbage bag where it is easily accessible so that you can pick up litter left by others along the river. Don't bury litter, haul it out. 

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( 7 ) 

Fish: Catch only as many as you need or can consume. After cleaning fish, bury entrails ashore. Never throw entrails, head, etc., back into the water. 

Noise: Be a considerate paddler. Don't crowd other camps. Noise is out of harmony on a river cruising trip. Radios and pets should be left at home. 

Rescue: (Actual practice in river conditions is invaluable.) A rescue depends on several things: 1. A reliable roll (self-rescue). 2. If you can't self-rescue, someone else being able to help. 3. A life vest (Personal Flotation Device) holds you high in the water. 4. A wet suit keeps you warm. 5. There is a way of getting to shore. 6. You have experience, and presence of mind not to panic. 

Rescue equipment: Must include 60-foot throwing line, block and tackle (optional), thermometer, first aid kit with fresh, adequate supplies; knowledge of first aid, especially artificial respiration and CPR and signs of, and treatment for, hypothermia as well as snake bites; spare paddle or oars; repair materials, i.e. duct (gray) tape and a complete repair kit for wilderness trips; a folding knife, matches in a water-proof container; spare spray skirt, if appropriate; learn the safety code and know rescue techniques; survival equipment, if appropriate. 

Waterproof bags: For touring, wet packs to keep camping equipment, clothes, and food dry. 

Dry bags: Cheap (garbage bags, plastic bags, plastic mayonnaise jars). 

Good Bags: (Black rubber bags, etc.) 

Rescue Techniques

Open Water 1. Canoe over Canoe (rescue of others) 2. Re-enter a swamped canoe (self-rescue) 3. Re-entering a canoe in deep water (self-rescue). 4. Hand paddling (self-rescue). 

Moving Water 1. Wading and swimming with boat, upstream and (self-rescue) made only if it is not near a drop. 2. Swimming without the boat, swimming techniques feet up (self-rescue) 3. Land extension: line thrown to swimmer (rescue of others) don't tie ropes to people. 4. Towing a swamped boat (rescue of others) 5. Picking up a person in the water (rescue of others). 6. Emptying a canoe in shallow water (self-rescue). 7. Roll (self-rescue). 

Rescue Class: A rescue class can be given on a river at the same time as the leadership training. It is very important every leader understand good rescue techniques.- Line throwing, etc. can be taught also. Promote discussion among the leaders of what to do in certain situations so they can be prepared when an emergency happens. Actual practice in river conditions with a group is invaluable. 

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( 8 ) 

Swamping and swimming: Act, don't be caught by indecision. Do something even if it's wrong; you will learn from your mistake. As a general rule stay with the boat (a boat is easier to spot than a swimmer). Stay on the upstream side ot the boat at all times in moving water. To avoid being tapped or pinned against a rock, tree, bridge pier, brush or anything that could pin you or your boat. The force of tons of moving water has no mercy. Hold on to your craft it has much flotation. Try to align it with the current to prevent wrapping. 

Leave the boat in dangerous situations if disaster seems certain such as: falls, dams, wiers, high surf, extremely rocky rapids, and numbing cold water. Swim to the nearest safe place and gather your thoughts. Your boat and equipment can always be replaced, but you can't. In a situation where the paddler and boat are separated, get the people out first and then the boat and equipment if it will cause no risk to life. 

Extend your feet downstream high on the surface when swimming rapids to avoid entrapment situations. Look ahead and watch for eddies or still-water. Use every opportunity to work .your way towards a safe shore. 

It is important to point out to good swimmers that you can not swim in an aerated rapid because the water will not float you. Many people think that wearing a life jacket will make them look sissy, while most of us know that it only enables you to barely keep your head out of the water in any kind of major rapid. 

A paddler must never attempt to stand up in fast-moving water! Feet must always be kept high to avoid entrapment. Do not attempt to push off rocks with your feet, as they could catch in a crevice. The safest procedure is to swim for an eddy, and then stand up. Walking on the riverbed is safe only if the water is too shallow for swimming, and even then it should be done with great caution. The hazards may be well hidden and difficult to avoid. 

Hypothermia: In basic terms, hypothermia is a severe lowering of the body temperature due to the heat losses exceeding the heat production. A human body has a complex and effective heat generating system. The basic metabolism of the individual determines the heat generating capacity when at rest. Muscular activity increases heat output (paddling) to several times the basic metabolism. External heat sources are sun, fire, hot liquids, and another body's warmth. Heat is lost from the body in a number of ways. Radiation, convection, and conduction are the basic methods. Wind and water have a tremendous effect on heat loss. The insulating value of normal clothing may be reduced by 90% if it gets wet. Wind will reduce the effect even faster. The body also loses heat by evaporation of moisture from the skin and by respiration. The best defenses against hypothermia are: maintain the body's energy supply be eating high-calorie foods. Sugar foods are best for quick energy, while protein and fats are longer lasting. Exercise (paddle) to maintain heat production but avoid fatigue. Wear adequate clothing. A wet suit of neoprene foam rubber is essential if on Class II water or higher and the water temperature is less than 50 F. in the event of a swim. Next best is wool clothing. It is one of the best materials since it retains much of its insulating value even when it is wet. Wear it under a windproof over garment such as a nylon shell. As much as 20% of your body heat can be lost of the top of your head, up to 40% to 50%, at 40 F. Wear a wool stocking cap and if on Class II or higher water a foam insulated helmet and wet suit hood will prevent much heat loss. Also carry a complete change of clothes and a towel in a waterproof package. Synthetic materials such as polyester Fiber Fill II and Polarguard have good wet characteristics. Down clothing is nearly completely worthless when wet and may take a day to dry. You should carry matches in a waterproof container to build a fire to keep warm. Keep it small and tend it carefully to prevent it from spreading. If after prolonged exposure a person experiences uncontrollable shaking or has difficulty talking and moving, he must be warmed immediately by whatever means available as soon as possible. 

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Safety: Our contribution to safety is through education and example. Your experience with canoeing education and safety which will have the most impact will be practical experience on the river. 

Equipment: Test new or unfamiliar equipment in a pool or lake before using it on a river. Be sure your craft is in good repair before going on every trip. Look for cracks, weak spots, air chamber leaks, air bag leaks, frayed lines, etc. and repair these before the trip. Use a check list so you are unlikely to forget anything for your cruise. Inflatables should have multiple air chambers and be test inflated before a cruise. Inflatables and dories must have perimeter grab lines to hold on to during a swim. 

Craft Capacity: Craft capacity varies widely with size. No more than two adult paddlers in a 16 ft. or 17 ft. open canoe with camping gear is recommended. Our policy is two people in each canoe. But possibly one or two small children is O.K. on flatwater or a Class I river. (Make sure children wear their PFD (life vest) at all times in the craft.) No more than two paddlers on Class II or higher. Posted inflatable capacities should generally be halved on white water. Know what your craft capacity is and that it should be reduced for river use. A sluggish boat is not only dangerous but tires you out and is no fun. Consider large raft support for long trips to lighten your boats of camping gear. A central commissary also helps lighten the load. 

Lifevests (PFDS) ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: 1. Well-fitting Personal Flotation Device (Type I through III) Coast-Guard approved for each person. 2. Should be in good condition. 3. Should fit properly (doesn't ride up). 4. Shouldn't interfere with paddling motions or chafe arms. S. Vest type jackets provide protection from rocks, five additional insulation, and are easier to swim in. 

Helmets: (Good protection) 1. If shell is easily deflected by hand, helmet is too soft. 2. Need strong strap that can be quickly released when necessary. 3. Avoid built-in visors or flares that can get caught. 4. Wear on Class II or higher water-includes open boats. 

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Clothing: 1. Swimsuit: nylon dries quickly; cut-offs are rugged. Consider what will give protection from chafing of seat and boat interior. 2. Shirts for sun protection. 3. Nylon shells for wind protection. 4. Sunglasses (glasses or sunglasses need holder or strap and defogging) Carry spare glasses. 5. Wool sweaters and/or wetsuits for warmth. 6. Dry change of clothes and towel carried in pick-up car or in waterproof container in boat -- include dry shoes to wear home. 

Shoes: 1. Sneakers best, wet suit booties not acceptable alone; foot-wear should be strong enough condition to survive a walk out of a canyon. Plastic sandals over set booties work well. Avoid heavy, clumsy boots or shoes. 

Wetsuits: 1. Should not bind your arms. 2. A wet suit is a requirement if water temperature is below 50 F and/or cold weather is anticipated on Class II or higher water. 

Sprayskirts: (spray decks) 1. Nylon or neoprene (wet suit material) 2. Proper fit to waist and cockpit rim. 3. Be sure it will release easily from the boat. 4. Keep in good repair. 5. Carry a spare for large groups. 

Proper boat flotation: Proper secure-air chambers, or foam in good repair for open canoes. Air bags for decked boats filling 2/3s of the boat. 

Float Bags For Decked Boats: Fitted bags are best (as opposed to beach balls and innertubes). Split bags are available for boats with foam pillars. Ruggedness and durability depend on weight (thickness). Inflated and placed in boat be sure no rough edges to cut them. Sun (heat) and altitude will cause bags to expand larger and may damage your boat or bags. Transport your boat with air bags deflated and carry a repair kit. 

Painters and grab loops: Painters should be 15 feet long on bow and stern. 3/8" is preferred it will not cut into your hand, generally it is more comfortable. Provides storage for bow/stern lines. Grab loops should be of 1/4" nylon or equivalent and should be big enough for your hand to hold onto. 

Maps: Topo-Know the terrain around the river; in case you must walk out. 
Sectionals, etc.-Don't depend completely on them. Some may be out of date. 

Camera: Camera and film in waterproof container (50 cal. ammo box is good.) 

Transport of equipment: (Racks) legal for highway (flush with driver's side, 6" maximum overhand passenger side and red flag beyond three feet in rear of car - for California). Check your state vehicle code. State laws vary, Ohio allows 8' racks and Penn. flush with both sides. Car top racks must be strong and securely attached to the vehicle, and each boat must be tied to t e rack as well as bow and stern tied to the car s bumpers. Racks should be able to withstand an accident as well as violent wind. 

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Tie downs: Rope is best (nylon). The bow and stern as well as over middle. Use cradles to prevent deforming boats. 

Beware of any items that could prevent complete escape in case of upset: i.e.
-spray skirt that won't release 
-spray skirt that could tangle around paddler's legs 
-life jacket straps, buckles, or loose clothing that might snag on boat or obstructions in the water. 
-canoe thwarts and seats that lock on shoe heels or have sharp edges. 
-foot braces that might fail or allow feet to jam under them. 
-flexible decks that might collapse on paddler's legs when trapped by water pressure. 
-baggage that would dangle in an upset 
-knots that, when wet, would be difficult to untie, causing difficulty in rescue operations 
-loose rope in craft or badly secured bow/stern lines which could entangle the paddler during a swim. Do no put knots or loops in the end of bow/stern lines. You shouldn't tie any large bag or object into a canoe. When you swamp they will be easy to remove and speed up rescue operation. 

Be aware of river hazards and avoid them  
Following are the most frequent KILLERS

A. High water. The river's power and danger, and the difficulty of rescue increase tremendously as the flow rate increases. It is often misleading to judge river level at the put-in. Look at a narrow, critical passage. Could a sudden rise from sun on a snow pack, rain, or dam release occur on your trip? 

B. Cold. Cold quickly robs one's strength, along with one's will and ability to save yourself. Dress to protect yourself from cold water and weather extremes. When the water temperature is less than 50 F. a wetsuit is essential for safety in the event of a swim. next best is wool clothing under a windproof outer garment such as a splash-proof nylon shell; in this case one should also carry matches and a complete change of clothes in a waterproof package. If, after prolonged exposure, a person experiences un-controllable shaking or has difficulty talking and moving, he must be warmed immediately by whatever means available. 

C. Strainers. Brush, fallen trees, bridge pilings, or anything else which allows river current to sweep through but pins boat and paddler against the obstacle. The water pressure on anything trapped this way is overwhelming, and there may be little or no whitewater to warn of danger. 

D. Weirs, Reversals, and Souse Holes (Keepers). The water drops over an obstacle, then curls back on itself in a stationary wave, as is often seen at weirs, and dams. The surface water is actually going UPSTREAM, and this action will trap any floating object between the drop and the wave. Once trapped try to swim out the end of the wave or a swimmer's best action is to dive below the surface where current is flowing downstream. 

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 Low Head Dam

Scale for Grading the Difficulty of River Cruising: Rivers have "variables" with water levels (cfs flow), temperature, craft you intend to paddle, and your skill in that craft. (i.e. beginner, novice, inter-mediate, advanced, and expert). A river could be Class III 1/2 in spring runoff or a heavy rainy season and an easy Class II at another (summer) level. If the temperature is below 50 F. and/or cold weather is anticipated on Class II or higher water the river should be considered one class higher than normally. The river is rated by obstacles, temperature, waves, speed (cfs), drop, power of the hydraulics, ability to rescue, etc. However, a Class III run may be an intermediate run in a kayak and an advanced run in an open canoe. Have a realistic knowledge of your skill level in the craft you intend to paddle and find out as much information as you can about the run before you attempt it. Don't forget your friend may have run the same run at low water and when you attempt it could be a full class higher. Learn to make your own judgments based on your ability and skill. Line or portage your boat if you don't feel up to it; no one will think any the less of you. Always wear your Personal Flotation Device (life jacket). Never travel with less than three boats and always check weather forecasts, 


Flatwater: Pools, lakes, estuaries, bays, etc. Paddlers have an average swimming ability, knowledge of rescue, and the basic boating safety good physical condition. Wind and tides are sometimes problems. (Always check tide tables). If heavy motorboat traffic stay close to shore and approach their waves at an angle to 45 degrees to 90 degrees. 


Class I  

Moving water with a few riffles and small waves few or no obstructions. Have the skill to paddle around major obstacles bridge piers, well spaced rocks, avoid brush, be able to self-rescue, good physical condition, and average swimming ability* (do not boat on flood control ditches or canals) can spot eddies and knows their effect. 

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Class II  

Wear a helmet. (This includes open boats.) Be a good swimmer* with an ability to handle yourself under water. Be experienced in a wet exit from an overturned craft. Be able to self-rescue and rescue others. You should have an ability to spot submerged rocks. Easy rapids with waves up to three feet. Clear channels usually obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering is required. You should have a good ability to judge which rapids can be safely run in the craft you are paddling and estimate in an open canoe waves that will ship water. Be able to keep your craft under good control to stop or reach shore before any danger. (Strainers, etc.) Plan your route and boat the route planned. Do not enter a rapid unless you can see the bottom of it or are reasonably sure you can navigate it or swim the entire rapid in an upset. A wet suit is required if water temperature is below 50 F on Class II or higher water. Be able to cross good eddy lines, and brace instinctively. 

Class III 

Rapids with high irregular waves 4 to 5 feet, capable of swamping an open canoe. Complex maneuvering is required. Scouting from the shore is suggested. Have a good ability to evaluate the difficulty of a rapid and make your independent judgment as to run it or not. A strong swimming ability. A good ability to rescue others and to perform a self-rescue (roll) in a tip-over. (A decked boater should be able to perform a reliable roll when planning to run higher class rivers where a swimmer would have trouble reaching the shore) be able to judge the effects of large hydraulics, reversals, holes, fast jest, drops, and strong eddy lines. 

Class IV

Usually not possible for open canoes except experts. Long difficult rapids with constricted passages, requires precise skill in boat placement in turbulent hydraulics. Have a good knowledge for handling unusual circumstances, turning drops, strong side currents, strong reversals, and big holes. Scouting from shore is necessary and conditions make rescue difficult. Very strong swimming ability*. Excellent physical condition, and a strong reliable roll. Must be able to roll on either side and have the ability to stay in your boat in very turbulent water for third and fourth attempts to roll. 

Class V 

Extremely difficult, long and very violent rapids with highly contested routes, which must be scouted from shore. Rescue conditions are very difficult in the event of a mishap. Very expert development of all boating skills in very big water is required. 

Class VI  

Difficulty carried to the extreme. Very dangerous. Rescue questionable with all precautions taken. Cannot be run without risk to life or limb. 

*Swimming ability should be based on wearing a PFD. 
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( 14 ) 

Adapt it to your personal needs and the time of the year or expected weather conditions. 
Life Vest (Personal Flotation Device) 
60-foot rescue line 
Extra paddle 
Wet suit (if applicable) 
Spray skirt (decked boats) 
Float bags (decked boats) 
Grab Loops (decked boats) 
15-foot painter lines (canoes) 
Repair Tape (gray duct tape) 
Glasses strap 
Extra glasses 
Knee pads (should be glued into boat) 
Bailer or sponge 
Helmet (for class 2 or above) 
Sun hat or wool stocking cap 
Block and tackle (optional) 
First Aid Kit 
Personal medication 
Suntan lotion 
Toilet tissue 
Matches in a waterproof container 
Waterproof watch 
Canteen of water or water purifier 
Wool Sweater 
Waterproof nylon shell 
Long Pants 
Wool sox 
River shoes (canvas shoes) 
Dry shoes (camp shoes) 
Camera & film (in a 50 cal. a box) 
Ground cloth 
Foam pad or air mattress 
Sleeping bag* 
Tent or tarp (optional) 
Wool gloves 
Insect repellent 
Garbage bag 
5" by 7" shovel 
Extra bulb 
Extra batteries 
50-foot nylon line (clothesline) 
Tooth brush and toothpaste 
Hand soap (biodegradable) 
Ice chest (optional) 
Stove (backpack type one burner) 
Wind screen 
Extra fuel 
Book matches 
Cooking pot 
Fry pan 
Tea pot 
Sheath knife 
Spoon and fork 
Water container 
Can opener 
Wash pan 
Dish soap and scouring pad 
Salt and pepper shaker 
Reading matter (optional) 
Fishing equipment (optional) 
Musical Instrument (optional) 


*Synthetic materials such as polyester Fiberfill II and Polarguard have good wet characteristics, and are less expensive than Down which is nearly completely worthless when wet and may take a day or more to dry. 

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( 15 ) 
 Safety Tips 
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