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Old 05-27-2009   #11
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,910
A good place to start would be Jeff Bennett's book The Complete Whitewater Rafter. Check it out on Amazon, or better yet, at your local boating store (like Downriver Equipment since you're in Denver). You should be able to get a copy for about $15. Its got lots of valuable info ranging from reading water to river hydraulics to history of whitewater boating to how to run a paddle crew to oar strokes for negotiating whitewater to... Well, hopefully you get the idea.

Also, use this website to hook up with other boaters who can coach you and let you follow their lines in the rapids. There are bound to be folks heading up to the Upper Colorado or other easier rivers who are willing to show you the oar strokes.

Have fun!


Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 05-27-2009   #12
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 535
a good 101 rafting video too...

Let's Get Wet DVD/VHS

instruction is good but not required. i went to the school of "have at it",as well and it's fine. start on the pumphouse or horsethief / ruby runs when levels drop abit and work up from there as confidence builds .it doesn't take long. i had previous ww experience from kayaking,ect but rowed some straight forward III the first day and rowed the MFS a few months later, no problem.

good luck,dude.

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Old 05-27-2009   #13
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 11
Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center offers top quality oar instruction. We have instructional courses that cover the basics without having to commit to 10 days of commercial raft guide training.
Kayaking lessons & instruction on Colorado's Arkansas River, guided mountain bike trips, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing lessons for kids & adults
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Old 05-27-2009   #14
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 32
I just started out also, and I'm taking a pretty simple approach. I get friends with experience to go out with me and run Class III. When I can't find such friends I limit myself to a couple of runs that are mostly flat with just a few Class II rapids. One such run finishes with a short Class III which adds a bit of excitement.

The bigger problem is that until I get a trailer I can't go out alone at all, in the beast of a raft I've acquired. No way to carry it down or up a ramp on my own.
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Old 05-27-2009   #15
riojedi's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 191
Just going for it is fun and all, but here's a link local rafting club High Country River Rafters - Home Page

FYI- Compensating somebody, without an outfitter licence, to take you rafting or for instruction is illegal in Colorado.
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Old 05-28-2009   #16
nomad, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 47
quit your job. train at a sub par company and join the ranks as a broke ass raft guide making just enough to pay for rent and booze. In July. Pretty much unemployed like the other 10 percent of our country but its a kick ass time..sometimes
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Old 05-28-2009   #17
penguin's Avatar
Tahoe City, California
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 53
I agree with what's been said above: just jump in and go for it.

I was in the exact same situation earlier this Spring. I am planning two trips this summer (Deso, MF Salmon) and I needed some hands-on oar experience. First I had a skilled friend take me down a river with an oar frame, then I started going on my own. Bit by bit, my confidence really increased. I'm totally comfortable on II/III, and I don't expect to move up a whole lot even in the future.

I take safety really seriously because I'm guiding for my family. All of us have had to train on rope bags, situational response, and some basic first aid. Perhaps the best safety training I had this Spring was a real situation with some IKers on a river. I had to throw bags, swim for gear, retrieve IKs, etc. all in one day.

At least for me, several days of oar frame training on II/III seems to be enough for a basic trip on similar water. For now I'll avoid IV rapids.
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Old 05-28-2009   #18
timbuktu, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 679
Jump in and do it. Be safe though. Start out on something like the Upper C or virtually anything between Glenwood Springs and Loma. Run the same section multiple times and master it before moving up a notch. Maybe take a swift water course or get a guide to run you through the drill (it's not rocket science, although some guides like to think it is) and get CPR cert up to date.

Most of all, do what you did here, ask questions, only ask them at the boat ramp or on the river. One thing I know about boaters is that they all have an opinion and they are more than willing to fill you full of it! Other than learning good safety practices... your floating a non motorized down a river. Doesn't require a map, GPS or a text book, let the river teach you.
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Old 05-28-2009   #19
pbowman's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 245
Safety and Reading Water are key

I have kayaked for 10 years, and just started rafting this year. Knowing how to keep you and your crew safe are the most important, and if you are experienced in other whitewater endeavors (kayaking) you should be pretty far along. Understanding and reading water are key to guiding the raft IMO, you just have the read the water early and plan/execute in advance. All the guides who I raft with say my water reading skill would not be improved by any typical guide training program, and the only thing I would learn is possibly some additional raft specific paddle strokes. The first trip I guided on my 12' raft was a R3 crew on the Lower Taos Box - I was with other experienced rafters so I could follow their lines, but near the end I took the lead and was read/run on most of the Rio Bravo section.

The biggest thing I have adjusted to is how slow the raft is. For me, the raft is like a school bus compared to my kayak as a turbo coupe. You also need to be very conscious of boat angle, and where the strong(est) current is going to push you. I am comfortable on CL IV in my kayak and have been fine with up to CL III in the raft, so I would simply suggest some easier runs that you know well to start and build your confidence up from there. I have an oar frame for my raft too, but have no experience on it yet - I plan to start on pumphouse, state bridge, and grizzly to get some experience and work up from there in order to run Westwater later this summer. Just my 2c on everything, but working ok so far - no flips or dump trucks yet. Later.
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Old 05-28-2009   #20
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
When I couldn't find anyone that boated the Lochsa, I "hired a friend". I called a local guide to see if they'd let me follow them down, and sure enough they would. Turns out I called the right guide, we're fast friends, and I still run with them on occasion (like maybe this weekend). The Lochsa was big water, so I wasn't interested in just tagging along, I wanted to be safe. If you are concerned about safety and getting your way down, there's nothing wrong with seeing if some outfitters will let you tag along for a small fee (at first only). After a while, I'm considered a "safety boat", which seems pretty silly! Plus, it goes a long way to prevent the guide vs private bias that seems to develop all-too-often.

I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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