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Swiftwater Rescue Training on the Cache La Poudre River


Mountain Whitewater conducts a swiftwater rescue training course each spring that is required for all company guides.

Guides Reviewing a Z-Drag During Swiftwater Rescue Training

by Ben Costello, March 2016

Here at Mountain Whitewater we pride ourselves for having the most experienced and well trained whitewater rafting guides on the Cache La Poudre River. After all, our motto is “Our Guides Make the Difference.” To make the difference, safety must be the number one priority of a professional raft guide. Swiftwater rescue training is a minimum training requirement for each guide at Mountain Whitewater, in addition to CPR and First Aid required by the State. We also highly encourage all of our guides to pursue advanced medical training and to practice their medical and rescue training regularly.

Swiftwater Rescue Training is an intense two-day, 18-hour course that teaches swiftwater rescue techniques and river safety procedures. The class is designed for both rookie and veteran guides and is formatted to both teach new techniques and refresh standard safety procedures.

Day One

Day one of the class covers the many technical aspects of river rescue and the gives guides a chance to practice water based rescue scenarios in a controlled situation. The morning of day one takes place on the ground of Mountain Whitewater and the afternoon takes place on a local pond or lake.

Flip Drills on the Pond During Swiftwater Rescue Training

During the morning of day one topics include:

  • Safety equipment that should be carried by each guide
  • Proper rope safety procedures and rope care
  • Knots, hitches, anchors and rigging systems
  • Throw rope training
  • Mock boat rescues including Z-drags and Vector Pulls
  • First Aid and CPR scenarios

During the afternoon of day one topics include:

  • Raft flip drills
  • Being underneath both an upside-down and rightist-up raft
  • Climbing into a raft from the water
  • Pulling someone into a raft
  • Flatwater paddling drills and raft races

Day Two

Day two of the class takes the participants up to the Cache La Poudre River. Day two is a much more intense day that concentrates on real-life swiftwater practice. The drills immerse guide in river currents and give them a chance to play the role of both rescuer and swimmer.

Guides Learning How to Swim Rapids During Swiftwater Rescue Training

During day two topics include:

  • Swimming through class II, III and IV rapids
  • Self-rescue in rapids
  • Assisted rescue techniques
  • Entering and exiting eddies as a swimmer
  • Swimming across the river
  • Panicked and assisted swimmer rescues
  • Individual and group river crossings
  • Tethered rescues
  • Strainer swimming drills
  • Backboard scenarios
  • Foot entrapment drills
  • Throw rope drills