Why we all need to spend more time being active in the outdoors this year.
by Ben Costello, January 2017
One of the most popular resolutions people set each year is to be more active, or to take it a step further, to be more active in the outdoors. For many of us who live in Colorado, outdoor activity is a lifestyle. One that we either grew-up with or moved here for. Either way, it is hard to imagine life without our favorite outdoor pursuits, so we don’t need reasons to paddle. For others, including many Coloradans, outdoor activities are not a part of life. Many outdoor activities can be intimidating to beginners, can be expensive to get into or are just not accessible due to where you live. Rafting is a great way to get outside and be active because it is beginner friendly, affordable and available to anyone who lives in or visits Colorado.
Here are 6 reasons to paddle the Poudre River this year:
1) Paddling is a healthy way to maintain fitness
- Paddling is a great cardio exercise and a whole body workout. If you need reasons to paddle, this is a great one. You will use your arms, shoulders, back and abdominals to paddle and your legs and abs to hold yourself into the raft. But don’t worry, there is some down time to rest between rapids.
2) Paddling is a great way to spend time with loved ones
- Paddle rafting is a team sport. It requires working together and communicating with your friends and family to navigate the river successfully. Plus, phones don’t work in the river, so you get time to enjoy being active without distractions from technology.
3) Paddling helps to overcome the your fears
- Rushing whitewater and huge splashes to the face are not something most people face regularly. With help from professionally trained river guides, most anyone can conquer class III and IV rapids they would not have otherwise. These experiences of conquering fears by being taken out of our comfort zone can give us the confidence to branch out in other parts of our lives.
4) Paddling is a great way to experience nature
- Along with being healthy, connecting or re-connecting with our natural environment is a big part of many resolutions. There is no better way to experience flora and fauna and to feel like a part of nature than paddling a river. There is just something about going with the flow of a river that connects us to nature. After all, rivers are regarded as the lifeblood of our natural ecosystems.
5) Paddling both relaxes and excites
- The river provides a wonderful juxtaposition of elation and refreshment. Rapids provide for the rush of adrenaline and the excitement of anticipating what is next. Calm sections in between the rapids allow for a moment of relaxation and time to appreciate your surroundings.
6) Paddling creates unique and memorable experiences
- One of the best reasons to paddle this year is very simple, it is FUN! One of my favorite parts of being a raft guide is people telling me, “That was the most fun thing we have done all summer.” Paddle rafting creates memories that will last a lifetime. Be careful, you may just find your new passion in life.
Mountain Whitewater’s annual river cleanup had a great turnout and was a huge success!
by Cassi Ballard, June 2016
Mountain Whitewater’s annual Clean the Poudre 2016 had an incredible turnout of over 125 volunteers. The crew cleaned up over 4 cubic yards of trash and a full cubic yard of recycling. Everyone was well prepared and had the best attitudes we could ask for.
An appreciation event at Paddler’s Pub at Mountain Whitewater was held after the cleanup with food and drink provided by LaPorte Pizza, Odell’s, Serious Texas Bar-B-Q, Backcountry Deli, and Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant. Morning Fresh Dairy also brought 20 plus volunteers on their behalf and donated chocolate milk, lemonade, and yogurt for the appreciation event. So another thank you to these sponsors for supplying the hard working volunteers with free food and beer!
Everyone’s efforts and contributions to the river cleanup were and still are greatly appreciated. The positive impact on the river helps to shine light on the city of Fort Collins and all of its citizens and attractions.
If you’re looking for information about next years river cleanup give Mountain Whitewater a call and be sure to stay tuned for updates!
A clear and thorough safety talk is one of the most important elements of any competent, professionally run river trip.
by Ben Costello, April 2016
A clear and concise paddle and safety talk is a very important component to any river trip. The experience and familiarity level of the group might determine how thorough the discussion will be, but all trips should have a safety talk in some form. It should never be assumed that every member of a paddling trip is fully knowledgeable about river safety procedures and paddling techniques. Even experienced groups of paddlers should, at a minimum, briefly discuss hand signals to be used and the general plan for the trip.
A well crafted paddle talk should cover topics regarding river safety, proper equipment use, the trip plan and how to paddle. The talk should be informative, but also fun. It should be a thorough enough to cover everything needed, but not so long that people stop listening. 15 to 20 minutes is perfect.
On a lot of trips, the safety talk is conducted at the river put-in. At Mountain Whitewater, we conduct our paddle talks at our office. This allows for guest to be focussed on the safety talk without the distraction of looking at the river. The trip leader will conduct the safety talk for each trip. This allows for the trip leader to properly evaluate the group and interject their own style and humor to the talk. Each guest is given a copy of the safety talk check-list so they can follow along, with one guest checking items off the list as they are covered by the trip leader to ensure all topics are covered. The following is an example of a safety talk and the topics that should be included.
Introduction and equipment:
- Greeting and introduction. Outline of the plan for the day, length of trip, weather and brief itinerary.
- The importance of quality safety gear – we use self-bailing boats with toe straps to help keep you in the boat, class V lifejackets to give great floatation, splash jackets and fleece for added warmth, and kayak style helmets to protect from rocks and flying paddles.
- Lifejackets – Make sure they are tight so that when we pull up on the shoulder straps it stays in place. Wear your lifejacket at all times. Do not undo any of the buckles or straps.
- Paddle boats – All of our trips are paddleraft trips. Team of paddlers listens to the guides’ commands to get the boat downriver. This is a team activity, everyone will need to participate and paddle.
Paddling and commands:
- holding a paddle – Always have one hand on the t–grip (top of the paddle). The other hand when paddling will be as close to the blade as possible,
- forward paddle
this gives better leverage. The more leverage you
have, the less work you do.– Put the blade in the water in front of you and then bring it back.
- back paddle – Put the blade in the water behind you and then bring it forward using your hip as a fulcrum point.
- left turn – Left side back paddles, right side forward paddles
- right turn –Right side back paddles, left side
- stop –Stop paddling
- hold on or bump or lean-in – Get ready for a bump, brace yourself
- high side – If the boat is going to hit a large rock with force, we all need to jump onto the tube that is going to hit the rock; the high side is always downstream. Wait for the guide to call high side, jump to the downstream tube as fast as possible, and wait for the guide to tell you to return to your positions.
- Intensity of the guides’ voice – As things get more intense the guides voice reflects that, start paddling harder.
- Importance of paddling – The motor of the boats is you and your paddle. If you turn off the motor then the boat has no steering, power or brakes. Paddle hard.
River safety and rescue:
- Swimming – This is a rocky, low-volume river. When swimming, keep your feet downstream, float flat on your back and bounce off rocks with your feet. Get to shore, your boat or another boat. Keep your eyes open for a rope bag. If the water is deep, turn on your stomach and swim to the closest safe spot. If not, back paddle with your arms and legs.
- Foot entrapment – Do not stand up in the river. Your foot could become lodged underneath a rock, the current pushes you forward, and suddenly you are stuck face down in the water. Sounds terrifying! DON’T stand in moving water.
- Flipping – Occasionally boats can and do flip over. Follow all the same swimming procedures; the boats stay afloat whether right-side-up or upside-down. Do not hold onto the downstream side of the boat because we don’t want anyone smashed between the boat and downstream rocks.
- Finding yourself underneath the boat – Get out from there. Put your hands above your head and push on the boat, use them like you are walking with your hands. Pick one direction and keep going.
- Point positive – The guides may point while you are swimming, go that direction. We are pointing which way to go, not to look out for something. The faster they point, the faster you should go that way.
- Rope bag – all have bags full of rope to tow you in if you get away from the boat. Keep your eyes open for ropes coming from your boat, other boats or shore. Swim to get the rope. Hold onto the rope, not the bag, and put it over your shoulder. We will tow you in backwards.
- Other boats – Other boats are happy to pull you in, go to whomever is closest. If a kayaker is towing you, grab onto the rear tow strap, kick hard with your feet. They will tow you to shore. Do not grab any other part of their boat, paddle or them.
- Pulling someone in –Grab them by the shoulder straps of their lifejacket, brace your knees on the boat and fall backwards. Use your body weight not your arms. The person being pulled in should kick with their feet, just like getting out of a pool. If you still can’t get them in dunk them down into the water so that the buoyancy of the lifejacket can help you out (make sure you let them know what you are doing).
- Strainers – Strainers are objects in the river like trees or branches that allow water to flow through but not people. Swim aggressively away from strainers. If you cannot swim away from the object, fight your way over the strainer, never allow yourself to swim under the strainer.
- Water Fighting – Water fighting is allowed on warm days for willing parties. Don’t splash if someone doesn’t want to. Watch for flailing paddles, don’t splash or squirt someone in the face. Stay in your raft. Do not water fight above rapids.
- Any medical condition that we should know about? Please let your guide know about any medical conditions or drugs that you are taking that may help us in an emergency.
- Litter – If we catch anyone marring our beautiful office, you will be boatless. Seriously, we want to keep this beautiful for us and everyone else. Everything that we bring in, we bring out. There is also recycling available at the shop.
- Get Your Gear – Follow guides to get your gear. Please be prudent as we are on a strict time schedule. The order you wear your gear from bottom to top is: bathing suit, wetsuit, fleece, splash jacket and then your pfd.
- Natural Flowing Rivers – We do not expect all of these things to happen, however, this is a naturally flowing river, you are not at Disney Land, so it is possible for some of these things to happen.
A discussion about rope safety and the proper use of a throw rope in whitewater rafting and whitewater rescue.
by Ben Costello, April 2016
To put it simply, a rope bag or throw bag is a bag filled with rope. It is a common river rescue tool that is carried on every raft at Mountain Whitewater. Most commercially available throw bags are made up of a nylon or Cordura bag filed with Polypropylene (or other floating material) rope. The ropes are made from a synthetic material that doesn’t lose its integrity when it gets wet. Max loads range from 950-2500+ lbs depending on the material. Ropes range in size and shape depending on their intended use. They will generally be made with bright colors and even reflective tape to ensure high visibility for the rescuer and the person being rescued.
There are bags designed to be worn around your waist, bags designed to be clipped onto a D-ring on your raft, bags designed to fit inside a small kayak and many others. Here are a few examples of throw bags that can be purchased from NRS:
Throw bag images courtesy of www.NRS.com
The rope bag toss is one of the guide’s best ways to get guests to safety. Anyone that may have to throw a rope should practice regularly. As with most things, the better prepared you are for a rope toss through practice, the better you will perform when someone’s life is on the other end. Lucky for us, there is a road alongside much of the Cache La Poudre River. This allows our bus drivers to stop at the bigger rapids during high water to add another set of hands to help with throwing ropes.
When using a throw bag, there are several factors to consider. If possible, you should set-up before the rescue to ensure the best success. Trying to gain eye contact with the person to whom you’re throwing a rope. Swimmers are more likely to grab a rope if they see it coming and can look for it. Yelling “ROPE” before throwing a rope bag can also help gain the swimmers attention.
Most bags are best thrown with an underhand grip, though there are some that are designed to be thrown overhand. In order to throw a throw rope, you must hold the loose end of the rope with your non-throwing hand and grasp the bag firmly with your throwing hand. Make sure to leave about ten feet of “tail” on the loose end so you can let out some rope if needed. As you throw and release the bag it is VERY important that you don’t let go of the loose end…that’s what you’ll use to pull the swimmer in. When you throw, yell “rope” and aim straight at the swimmer’s head. As you throw the rope, the rope will unravel from the bag.
If you manage to hit the swimmer in the head, you’ve made a great shot. Now the swimmer only has to grab the rope to be pulled in instead of swimming to it. Hold firmly to the rope and make sure your swimmer does the same. If they hold the rope over their shoulder while floating on their back with their feet pointed downstream, it will be easier on both you and them. You can tow the swimmer back to the boat or shore or pendulum them towards shore or another boat to allow them to climb out on their own.
Some things to keep in mind…
- Make sure you have secure footing either on shore on the raft.
- Having another person that can help back you up is a great idea. It’s nice to have someone that can help you pull the swimmer to safety and make sure you don’t get pulled into the river yourself.
- Be aware of where the swimmer well end up after their pendulum to shore. Don’t swing them into any river hazard.
- Make sure you repack your throw bag properly after every time you use it to ensure easy unraveling and not a knotted mess.
- If possible, step toward your target as you throw to improve accuracy.
- Don’t release the rope to early or too late. Your release should aim the rope at your target.
- If there are several of you with a rope to throw, don’t all throw at the same time. This will prevent potentially dangerous tangling of the ropes.
Mountain Whitewater conducts a swiftwater rescue training course each spring that is required for all company guides.
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 OneDay 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.
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 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.
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
The 16th annual downtown Fort Collins volunteer river cleanup event
by Ben Costello, February 2016
Mountain Whitewater is organizing their annual volunteer river cleanup event for May 28th, 2016. The event will meet at Lee Martinez Park in Fort Collins. Check-in will begin at 8:30pm, with the cleanup scheduled for 9am to noon. Thanks to our partners at Fort Collins Natural Areas, Save the Poudre, American Rivers, Gallegos Sanitation and New Word Sports.
There will be a volunteer appreciation event starting at 12:30pm at Mountain Whitewater sponsored by Odell Brewing, Serious Texas BBQ, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, LaPorte Pizza and Backcountry Delicatessen. Everyone is welcome and there is no preregistration required. The event flyer is pictured below, contact us at 970-419-0917 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Whitewater raft guide training offers the chance to learn the skills needed to be a certified guide in the Sate of Coloradoand the chance to earn a job with the best rafting outfitter on the Cache La Poudre River.
by Ben Costello, January 2016
This year’s raft guide training will start on Monday, May 16, 2016. The first week of the course will consist of classroom style training at Mountain Whitewater in the mornings with on-river training in the afternoons. These classroom sessions will consist of a compilation of videos, slides, handouts and lecture.
The following weeks of the course consist of mostly on-river training. We will take two trips per day, seven days per week to complete the state mandated number of hours required to be a guide. There is a Swiftwater rescue training and a CPR and First Aid course during this period of guide training. We will be doing some intense training so that we can get you on the river as soon as possible.
Class Schedule for the 2016 Raft Guide Training Course
- Monday, May 16th – Paperwork, Employee Handbook, Equipment & Gear Rigging
- Tuesday, May 17th – River Currents, River Features, Paddle Commands, rating scales
- Wednesday, May 18th – Running the Rapids, Safety, Safety Talk, River Hazards, Poudre Bloopers Video, Slammin’ Salmon Video
- Thursday, May 19th – River Rescue, Emergency Procedures, Heads-Up Video, Rope Rescue
- Friday, May 20th – Miscellaneous, Outdoor Impacts, How to be a Better Guide
- Colorado State law requires that guides have First Aid and CPR certifications. Classes are usually between $50 and $80.
- The Mountain Whitewater Swiftwater Rescue class will also be a required part of guide training. The cost of the Swiftwater Rescue course is included in the training investment.
- The State of Colorado requires that you have 50 hours on river time before you can guide commercially.
- Mountain Whitewater will require that you have 100+ hours.
- We will have a Poudre rapids check-off sheet that will require all trainees to run all of the rapids of the Poudre Plunge at least 5 times.
- Once complete, if deemed appropriate, there will be a check-off run, top to bottom, with customers and a trainer in the boat. If all goes well, you will now be part of the Mountain Whitewater Descents team.
The cost for the course is $395 (half is returned after the second fulltime season working with Mountain Whitewater, half returned after the third fulltime season working with Mountain Whitewater).
This cost covers the classroom sessions, dry land sessions, equipment used during training (PFD, wetsuit, booties, splash jacket, and helmet), swiftwater rescue class and transportation to and from the Cache la Poudre River Canyon.
Being a river guide is a multidimensional job. It is physically and mentally demanding, days can be long with exposure to the elements. It is also very rewarding and tons of fun. We are looking for people who can fulfill those needs. Ask around…Mountain Whitewater has the best trained guides you will find. Call 970-419-0917 if interested or email email@example.com.
The third annual Poudre River Forum theme is Cultivating Connections for a
Healthy, Working River.
by Ben Costello, January 2016
The Poudre Runs Through It is a study/action work group dedicated to all things concerning the Cache La Poudre River. The group is made up of about 25 citizen experts representing a diversity of interests who were selected to study the Poudre River and formulate cooperative actions based on what they learn. One of those members is Brad Modesitt, Owner of Mountain Whitewater. The goal of the group is to build relationships and to put in action the initiatives they have identified, “to make the Poudre River the world’s best example of a working river that’s also healthy.”
The groups flagship event, The Third Annual Poudre River Forum will take place on February 5, 2016 and will be held at The Ranch in Loveland from 9am to 4pm. This years event theme is Cultivating Connections for a Healthy, Working River. The event will feature several different informational sessions and discussions surrounding the current state of the Poudre River. I have been able to attend the past two years and the event is very informative and well worth attending. It is important for anyone who cares about the Cache La Poudre River to be involved with groups and events like this as the river is the lifeblood of our Front Range communities.
The event will also include sponsor booths, door prizes including a rafting trip from Mountain Whitewater, networking opportunities, lunch, fun videos, and a closing celebration with music from Blue Gramma and beer from Odell Brewing Company. This will be a great event and I hope to see you all there!
Register for the event here: http://cwi.colostate.edu/ThePoudreRunsThroughIt/forum_2016.shtml
Group whitewater rafting trips are the perfect activity for an impactful and worthwhile team building experience for any business or corporate group.
by Ben Costello, December 2015
Team building outings are a very important tool for managers, corporate officers, team leaders and business owners in developing a high-quality, professional staff. Most employees are more comfortable in a work place where we get along with our coworkers and can understand and relate to each other more effectively. Shared experiences through team building, especially those that take place in an unfamiliar setting, can help facilitate positive bonds between coworkers. Don’t waste time gathering in an onsite meeting room to try and build team camaraderie. Team building is a lot more effective when you take people out of their normal environment and put them in a situation that encourages them to break out of their shell. A whitewater rafting trip with coworkers provides the ideal scenario to build a cohesive team.
So why is rafting such a great activity to facilitate worthwhile team building? Simple. Whitewater rafting is a natural team building activity. Getting six or seven people to work together and paddle in unison to get a raft through the rapids requires teamwork, leadership, cooperation and communication. Everyone from the owner and managers to the newest employees must contribute equally to paddling for a successful run through any rapid.
Skills used during a rafting trip can be applied to many different scenarios at work. In a successful workplace, everyone needs to paddle towards common goals. The more efficiently everyone paddles together towards a common goal, the easier that goal is to achieve.
As a rafting trip travels down the river it will encounter many situations that can relate to challenges your team can face. During times of calm waters it is important to remember to take-in the fantastic scenery and not focus on just your own raft. During times of turbulent rapids it is critical for everyone to buckle down and work together to make it through with success.
Following a guides instructions and helping others understand those instructions leads to improved communication. Relying on the paddling skills and effort of your team members builds trust. Collaboration is needed between raft mates to avoid swimmers. Down time between rapids gives everyone the chance to get to know each others back grounds a better through conversation. The action during a rapid helps to identify and respect strengths and weaknesses of team members. The adrenaline of rapids teaches paddlers how to perform in a fast-paced and unpredictable environment. Not to mention the chance to have FUN together. People naturally learn more when they are having fun and tend to remember those learned experiences better when the experiences were enjoyable.
Mountain Whitewater can facilitate a team building trip for groups ranging is size from 14 up to 50 people on any half-day trip. Group rates apply to team building trips as well. Custom programs are also available that include additional exercises and debriefing sessions at Mountain Whitewater.
The Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area tells us about the history of Northern Colorado and the West.
By Ben Costello, December 2015
In Fort Collins, we are very fortunate to live near the Cache La Poudre River. Not only is it a National Wild and Scenic River, but the river corridor is also a National Heritage Area. There are 49 National Heritage Areas in the United States. The Cache La Poudre River corridor is one of only three National Heritage Areas in Colorado. National Heritage Areas (NHA) are designated due to their historical significance and to encourage historical preservation of the area. NHA are not National Parks and are not federally owned. They are administered by state governments, non-profits or corporations with the National Park Service playing an advisory roll in their development. The Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area is administered by The Poudre Heritage Alliance.
Here is a little bit about why the Cache La Poudre earned this designation from the Poudre Heritage Alliance:
The Cache la Poudre River is the heart of the National Heritage Area which follows the Poudre downstream for 45 miles. This is the story of the “working Cache,” a river essential to the lives of the more than a half-million people in the northern Colorado Front Range.
Originating among the Rocky Mountains and dropping some 7,000 feet to the Great Plains, the Cache la Poudre River is relatively short —125 miles from start to end. It flows eastward through diverse geographic settings. In many areas one can see head gates, flumes, water measurement devices, and an intricate network of ditches as reminders that people are able to modify the river’s flow. These structures symbolize the long struggle to sustain a viable agricultural economy and to meet the water needs of urban development for the people of northern Colorado.
The Poudre is significant for its contribution to the development of Western water law and the evolution of complex water delivery systems. The Poudre has also played a crucial role in regional economic development and has become a focal point for recreation.
Please visit www.poudreheritage.org for more information about the Poudre Heritage Alliance and the Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area.