Date(s) Price(s)
May 1-5, 2024 $975

Maine Canoe River Guide Training

The Maine Canoe River Guide Training Program is designed to enhance the skills of river guides and experienced recreational paddlers who wish to tackle the challenges of more technical rivers. Technical rivers are characterized by Class 2 and above rapids and mandatory portages around falls or rapids. These unique waterways demand higher competence and preparedness from those who navigate them, making specialized training essential for success and safety.

Our course is tailored for Maine Guides who want to become more competent and confident in leading technical river trips and recreational paddlers who aspire to take on remote and technical rivers independently. By focusing on the specific challenges presented by technical rivers, we aim to provide participants with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to excel in this demanding environment. To view the course curriculum, click here.

Major topic areas to be covered are two-fold:

  • Information you, as a guide, need to cover before taking clients into a white water situation
  • Information you as a guide need to have relating to group management techniques, safety considerations, protection strategies for rapids, and judgement/decision making

Primary Topics Covered:

  1. River safety briefing, Self rescue, Objective River hazards, Throw bags, Sample stroke lessons, Sample river maneuvers lesson, Ferries, Eddy turns, Peel outs, Eddy sets, Offensive vs. defensive paddling techniques, Sample river reading lesson, Eddies, Eddy lines, White waves, Dark waves, V’s, info to have in her/his head. Group management skills for approaching major rapids, major portages, for easier river stretches (class 2 or below)
  2. Protection systems for major rapids, shore based, throw bags, boat based, and in the water
  3. Portage organizing, tumplines, one/two person lifts, one/two person carries
  4. Lining, bridles, painter lines, canoe trim, and tracking upstream
  5. Scouting from shore, from eddies, and on the run
  6. Upstream poling strategies/techniques and snubbing downstream

Other topics – as time and interest permits: fly fishing, brainstorming how to handle worst-case river scenarios, map and compass, contours and river gradients, canoe pins, avoiding, unpinning, haul systems, knots every guide should know.

Bill Green does the East Branch of the Penobscot River with Mahoosuc Guide Service

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Prerequisites for Participants

Before enrolling in the Maine Canoe River Guide Training program, it is essential to ensure that participants possess the foundational skills and experience necessary to maximize their learning and ensure their safety. The prerequisites for our course include:

Comfort and competence in Class 2 and above the white water

Participants should be comfortable and competent in navigating Class 2 and above white water rapids. This experience level means that participants are able to accomplish ferries, eddy turns, and peel-outs in Class 2 rapids. This is crucial as the course focuses on technical river skills rather than providing basic white water instruction. Familiarity with various rapid classifications will enable participants to build upon their existing knowledge and further develop their skillset. If you feel you are not at this level of ability in Class 2 water, you may wish to consider taking our two-day Intro to Whitewater Canoeing Clinic.

Ability to perform essential maneuvers

To participate effectively in the training program, individuals must be able to perform essential whitewater maneuvers such as ferrying, eddy turns, and peel-outs. These skills are vital for maintaining control and positioning in technical river environments. By demonstrating proficiency in these maneuvers, participants will be better equipped to focus on more advanced techniques and strategies covered in the course. As a guide, you are the one responsible for any canoe-based rescue of your guests should it become necessary. You need to be completely comfortable in Class 2 water in order to effectively complete a rescue.

Course Content

The Maine Canoe River Guide Training program covers various topics to enhance participants’ skills and confidence in navigating technical rivers. The course content is designed to address the unique challenges posed by technical rivers, ensuring participants are well-prepared for such environments. Key areas covered in the course include:

Navigating technical river sections

  • Reading river features: Learn to identify and interpret river features to make informed decisions when navigating technical rapids. We will review and make sure you understand the following features: upstream vs. downstream V’s, bubble float lines, keepers or hydraulics, difference between smiling and frowning keepers, stopper waves vs. standing waves, current differentials, and diagonal reflexive breaking waves.
  • Identifying hazards and obstacles: Understand how to recognize potential hazards, such as a broached canoe on rocks or strainers, and develop strategies for avoiding them and dealing with them if it does happen. We will also discuss high water and cold water as it relates to guiding safety.

Advanced paddling techniques

  • Ferrying across currents: Refine your ferrying skills to efficiently move laterally across river currents. We will cover the strokes necessary to effectively execute back ferry and forward ferry techniques.
  • Eddy turns and peel-outs: Master advanced eddy turn and peel-out techniques for better control and maneuverability in complex rapids. This will involve the introduction of some new strokes which you may or may not be familiar with, such as pivot brace, cross pivot brace, reverse sweeping low brace, and sweeping draw to the stern.
  • Reactive bracing: Improve your paddling efficiency and bracing techniques to maintain stability and control in challenging conditions. These braces are used to keep your canoe upright when the river is doing its best to try to flip your canoe. They include high brace, low brace, and the righting pry.

Portaging around hazards

  • Safe group management while approaching mandatory carries: Learn how to effectively and safely manage the group you are guiding while you approach a carry. This also entails being in position to react in a microsecond in the event of an unintended capsize above a mandatory portage.
  • Safe and efficient portaging techniques: We will cover how to organize a carry with safety in mind. Various portaging techniques will also be covered, such as the use of tump lines, one- and two-person canoe lifts, and using the buddy system while carrying.

Group management and communication

  • Trip planning and preparation: Gain valuable insights into planning and preparing for technical river trips, including route selection, gear requirements, predicting the river gradient using topographic maps, CFS flow rates, and emergency action plans (EAPs).
  • Decision-making, risk management, and judgement: Enhance your ability to assess risks, make informed decisions, and manage group dynamics during technical river trips. Our goal is to give you the tools to exercise excellent judgement.
  • The three -tions: Learn why you must cover the three -tions with a group you’re guiding before entering any Class 2 or above rapids. The three -tions: communication, navigation, and protection.

By covering these essential topics, the Maine Canoe River Guide Training program aims to provide participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to confidently and safely navigate technical rivers, whether as a professional guide or a recreational paddler. Remember, if you fell you are not experienced enough to do the Maine Canoe River Guide Training, you can start by taking our Intro to Whitewater Canoeing Clinic.

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Course Curriculum

Day 1

11 a.m. Meet at Grindstone Falls.

Afternoon: equipment, canoe outfitting, self rescue, group management, review & practice ferries, eddy turns, peel outs.

Camp – Oxbow.

Day 2

More of the above.

Scouting, reading rapids, paddle signals, t bag protection, navigation, communication in rapids, lining, portaging techniques, approaching portages.

Camp – Grand Pitch.

Day 3

More of Day 2 topics plus poling on Wassataquoik Stream.

Camp – Bowlin Falls.

Day 4

Paddle/pole to Grindstone Falls.

Camp – Grindstone Falls.

Day 5

Run Grindstone Falls after scouting.

Off river at noon.

Drive back to Grindstone Falls and picnic area by mid afternoon.