Stewardship and the Recreation Community: Giving Back to the River

Last week’s article covered the problems faced by many of the rivers we love to raft; pollution, litter, and trash of all types in frightening amounts. This week we’ll take a look at how the river running community is combating these issues and promoting healthy, beautiful rivers for both the people who love them and the ecosystem as a whole.

On the national scale, river communities and whitewater organizations work to protect their rivers by lobbying for legislation that promotes clean water and the conservation of wild spaces. Last Tuesday brought a huge win in this arena for rivers and for public access to all of our wild spaces with the passage of bill S. 47. This bill designated over 600 new miles of river as Wild and Scenic, added protection from mining for important recreational rivers, and added new wilderness areas across the country. The culmination of years of work by groups such as the Molalla River Alliance and the Nashua River Watershed Association with assistance from NRS, OARS and REI, this bill was passed due in large part to strong local support: the real key to protecting and sustaining our rivers.

              Over in our corner of the country, those local communities are hard at work keeping the rivers we love clean and wild. Puget Soundkeeper, based in Seattle, co-sponsors an annual cleanup of the Duwamish River and runs a number of their own events throughout the year. These events rely on volunteers from the river running community, especially whitewater rafters and kayakers, to help clean up the harder-to-reach sections of local waterways. During some years of the Duwamish clean-up a local outfitter contributes rental kayaks for volunteers, getting even more people out on the water where most of the trash needs to be removed. Another local river, the Nisqually, was cleaned of trash and other human-produced debris last April with a combined effort by the Washington Kayak Club, Washington Recreational River Runners and the Paddle Trail Canoe Club. With whitewater up to class 3, the Nisqually clean-up relied on expert boaters to clear the plastic debris and household trash from their whitewater playground. Another Washington state whitewater rafting run, the Green River Gorge, is kept healthy by an annual clean-up weekend sponsored by local rafting companies, recreational river running associations and conservation groups. Up to 500 boats show up every year to clear this stretch of iconic class 3-4 rapids of garbage; one year they pulled over 100 tons of pollutants and litter from the river.

You don’t have to wait for one of these big events to give back to the river, though. Sometimes it’s as simple as choosing to bring your own water bottle instead of a plastic one, and staying aware of where your trash ends up; or you can pick up a few pieces of plastic and bring them back to the put-in garbage can before your next whitewater rafting trip. Every action makes a difference. Big clean-ups are wonderful, and legislation is key to the future of every wild river; but in the end keeping our rivers clean and unpolluted is down to the everyday actions of those who recreate on and love them.

Sources:

Greenrivergorge.org and greenrivercleanup.org

“Nisqually River Cleanup,” americanrivers.org

Pugetsoundkeeper.org

“Landmark Conservation Bill Protects Nearly 620 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and Public           Lands Nationwide,” americanrivers.org

4 Tips For Having Great Outdoor Adventures

4 Tips For Having Great Outdoor Adventures

In 2016 Americans logged an incredible 11 billion outdoor outings, averaging 76.5 outings per participant. These outings can range from small hikes at the local park to week-long whitewater rafting trips. If you’re thinking about taking an adventurous trip at some point this summer, then you should make sure you set yourself up for a fun, safe, and exciting trip.

Why do we want our guides to have SRT-1 certification?

At Triad River Tours we reward and encourage guides to have a current SRT-1 certification, and prefer that this certification is from Swiftwater Safety Institute, out of Jackson, Wyoming. All of our company safety protocols and operational systems are based upon the principles of safety taught by SSI. Having a Swiftwater Rescue certification isn't just a matter of liability, and it's not just one more thing to check off your list and add to your resume. The core curriculum of our guide training and that of the SRT-1 by Swiftwater Safety Institute are the building blocks of our company's systems for running safe river trips. This is stuff we believe in. Triad River Tours is a big believer in staying ahead of the game when it comes to swiftwater rescue techniques, equipment, and overall methodology because our guides are what sell our trips. When we put the most qualified guides on the river with the best possible equipment, we know that we stand the best chance of impressing our guests so that they will come back again and again. Despite the reality that swims happen all the time and it is inevitable, generally, people want to stay in the raft and they want themselves and their friends/family to stay safe. With Western Washington ranking among the deadliest of commercial whitewater rafting state based industries, and one of the least regulated, we believe it is critical that our guides and guests are as informed and prepared as possible for every danger on the river. The dynamic nature of the geologically active rivers in Washington make them especially challenging from a risk management viewpoint, and thus, they are exceptionally well suited to teach swiftwater rescue to the public and to our guides. Furthermore, the team dynamic at our company is one of individual reliability and accountability. We are a creative group of outdoor professionals. Our trust and dedication to one another is one which is based on respect, and respect comes from believing in your fellow guides. When we run into a situation on the river, be it an emergency or just a flat tire, we want to know that the person next to us is going to give us quality recommendations and ideas. Working creatively amidst chaos and danger is our job, and to do it most effectively we must do it together. It all starts with each of us knowing our jobs, and trusting in each others abilities.

There is no substitute for first hand experience when it comes to whitewater. First and second year guides are rarely as equipped or as qualified as more seasoned guides who have more river miles and more exposure to different types of rescues. A properly designed, whitewater river guide applicable SRT is one that distills down the most common accidents and problems on commercial rafting trips, and focuses on the best possible methods of resolving those problems. The Swiftwater Safety Institute offers an SRT-1 course specifically designed for whitewater guides, and it is taught by some of the most respected multi-day guides in our industry. This is the foundation of knowledge that require of all of our tier 2-4 guides. The emphasis we put on attaining a raft guide centric SRT-1 is representative of our ethical focus on public safety and leading by example, and is echoed in our compensation schedule which is designed to preclude guides without this skill set from working our more challenging rivers. Of note, in 2017 all but one of our guide staff had an SRT-1. 

By working with and sponsoring trainings in Washington State with the Swiftwater Safety Institute, we have teamed up with some of the most informed and well practiced swiftwater rescue trainers in the world, with a curriculum specifically tailored towards recreational whitewater boating. The Swiftwater Safety Institute, based out of Jackson, Wyoming, is in our opinion the clear industry leader in cutting edge procedures and risk management detail. We cooperate with them to produce what we think is the most effective swiftwater rescue training in the state. Swiftwater Safety Institute and Triad River Tours share common goals and company creeds, including theory and practical skill sets that each and every guide should have before taking a paid client down the river. We believe in creative adaptations in real world situations based on likely scenarios, with a clear chain of command, and a step by step approach to rescue, recovery, and prevention. Our partnership with SSI exemplifies the values of our company. While we look around and see others looking at what kind of barbeque sauce to use and how much potato salad each person should have, we spend our off season training, practicing, refining, and redefining our approach to safety, so that each year we come into the game prepared for any situation. We believe that every professional river guide should be compensated fairly, above industry standard, and effectively on par with living wage professionals. Sustaining great guides over time is a costly endeavor, but we believe it is worth the time and expense both in relation to business, as well as our ethical relationship to the river and our guests. Proper training is invaluable for incoming guides, and each guide is required to pursue advanced medical training, and swiftwater rescue training. While we do not see rescue scenarios every day, we view it as our duty to be prepared to rescue not only ourselves, but any of our friends that happen to be on the river and need our help. Being prepared for every situation starts with bringing the right equipment, the right personnel, and the ability to synergize the two in order to protect human life from the invariable dangers of whitewater river running.