Progression of Rivers
An Old Timers View
Many years ago (the mid 70s) some of us were just beginning to participate in a form of canoe sport (whitewater touring) which has since grown beyond anything we could have imagined. However, as equipment and techniques have evolved, some basics are unchanged. It is still recreation - it must be enjoyable or you shouldn't do it. Over the years a list of lessons learned have been compiled. What follows are the fundamentals which promote a pleasing experience and which should still be observed.
1. Develop your skills over time. This is (or can be) a life long activity. Dont try Niagara Falls for a first run. Build your skills sequentially so you are continuously challenged but not scared out or injured by going too far beyond your capability too quickly.
2. Know what your current skill set is and the risk you would take by running whatever is being proposed. Make sure both you and your equipment are up to the challenge you are considering. Manage the challenge to a level with which you are comfortable. In the beginning, when you cant assess your skill or equipment, go a little more cautiously.
3. Never run something solely because of social pressure, and never impose such pressure on others. You alone are accountable for your decisions.
In line with this philosophy, we established some easy guidelines. In essence, the concepts were that:
1. When a paddler could play proficiently with a rapid of some grade, then they were ready to run the next higher grade.
2. No one should run a grade IV or higher unless they could do Eskimo rolls reliably under the expected conditions.
3. Water level changes the risk, so no one should be attempting any whitewater stream unless they recognize the importance of this factor, have access to suitable information about it, and use this information.
4. The effect of being cold is probably the most serious concern of all. Proper equipment must be used. This is true in whitewater or quiet water. Never ignore the importance of cold water (or air).
5. A river is always easier if one is familiar with it. Dont underestimate its difficulty for one who is not familiar with it.
6. Accessibility drives risk. If its easy to walk out, a greater challenge can be accepted.
7. Avoid Trees and Strainers!
8. Rivers dont necessarily resemble campfire descriptions!
For those just beginning their experience in this new world you might consider this sequence of increasing difficulty rivers (Progression of Rivers). Note that the factors mentioned previously and thus the order. Try to increase the difficulty at the rate of increasing skill. Go with other paddlers who have been there before.