An Introduction to Scouting Rapids

Whitewater paddlers consider many factors before they choose to run a rapid. In this post, I'll give you a brief overview of these considerations and what goes into scouting rapids.

Before we get started though, I'd recommend reviewing the Whitewater Terminology so you know what I mean when I say things like “holes”, “strainers” or “standing waves”.

In addition, you may find reading up on how rapids are classified helpful as it explains the basic classification system for rapid difficulty.

Note: Regardless of the level of whitewater and your own experience, please always always always wear a helmet and life jacket.

So how do we decide if the rapid is something we can run? There are a few things we keep in mind.

Planning Ahead (Scouting Rapids from Home)

Popular rivers (like the Missinaibi, Bloodvein and Coppermine rivers) have detailed guidebooks explaining what features there are along a river. By using the descriptions, you’re able to predict the likelihood you’ll be able to paddle the rapid, rather than portage around.

This will help you estimate how much of the river you can complete on a given day. The guidebook may have suggestions on the best route to take down a set of rapids.

Search for a reputable guidebook for the river prior to heading out.

Consider your group's energy and abilities

The most important criteria for judging if you'll run a rapid actually has little to do with the rapid itself. The most important consideration is your group.

Keeping your group safe is your priority, so you need to consider the group when making decisions about rapids. And this goes past just knowing their paddling skills. Ask yourself these questions:

What time of day is it? What's the weather like?

By mid-afternoon, energy levels are falling and your group may not have the strength or focus to go down the rapid. The same can be said if it’s been pouring rain and windy all day: uncomfortable paddlers don’t always m...

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