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Whitewater Rafting 101

Whitewater Rafting is always a blast, but sometimes understanding the language can be a bit difficult when you’re not familiar. We’ve made this whitewater rafting terminology list for your aid. Not only will you be able to better understand what the guides are talking about on your whitewater rafting trip, but you’ll sound like a pro when you go back home to your friends and family!

  • Bow: The front of the raft. Most rafts are symmetrical.
  • Current: Any reference to moving water.
  • Drop-Pool River: After a rapid, there is a calm pool to regain composure before the next rapid. Our section of the Snake River is a drop-pool river.
  • Drybag: A PVC bag which can be used for storing clothes on a multiday trip or to keep small items on the raft dry.
  • Dumptruck: When the raft stands up on one side and paddlers fall out and the raft stays upright.
  • Eddy: Water moving back upstream caused by a rock or obstacle of some sort. This is the ideal place to stop river craft.
  • Flip: When the raft capsizes and goes from an upright position to an upside down position. Guides carry “fliplines” to re-right the boats and get everyone back in.
  • High Water: After rains, monsoon or snow melt run off. The river moves faster at high flows and makes some rapids harder and some easier.
  • Hole: A river feature where water flows over a rock or obstacle in the river, drops down in the river, flows downstream and then back towards the falling water.
  • Low Water: Lower than average river levels which normally happen at the end of the rafting season.
  • Oar: A large 9-12 foot device that guides use to steer and propel rafts, used by our guides at Dave Hansen.
  • OS Line: Outside line. A safety rope running tightly around the outside of the boat that people can hold onto in the event of a swim.
  • Paddle: Composes a blade, shaft and t grip that clients use on a raft to propel the boat. Be careful not to hit your neighbor with your paddle!
  • PFD: A personal flotation device.
    Put In: The place where you launch the rafts into the river. Guide will give a safety talk before you start rafting and give you paddle instructions at the put in. For our 8-mile stretch of whitewater rafting, Dave Hansen puts in at West Table.
    Rapid: Formed in constricted areas of the river or where there is a significant change in the gradient of the river bed.
  • Rapid Classifications: Rapids are classified on a scale of 1-6. Our 8-mile stretch of whitewater on the Snake River contains Class II and III rapids. We’ve posted this article to help you better understand rapid classification.
  • River Left: The left side of the rivers as you look from upstream towards downstream.
  • River Right: The right side of the river as you look from upstream towards downstream.
  • Safety Boater/Kayaker: A person paid to paddle down in front of the rafts to offer support or advice in the event you swim. We use safety kayakers at Dave Hansen above 14,000 CFS.
  • Safety Talk: A talk given by your guide before you go rafting oulining how to react and what to do if you swim. Topics covered will be swimming in the river, flips, throw bags, safety kayakers and self rescue.
  • Flow: The current volume of the river. In the United States, river volumes are measured in cubic feet per second.
  • Stern: The back of the raft, normally where the guide sits.
    Surf: A raft stays in a hole and can rotate and move substantially.
  • Take Out: The end of the river trip, where the rafts get taken out of the river and plenty of good stories are told. From here you will get transport back to town. For our 8-mile stretch of whitewater rafting, Dave Hansen takes out at Sheep Gulch.
  • T Grip: The end of a paddle used to help the paddler propel the paddle through the water. Paddlers should always keep hold of this when whitewater rafting.
  • Throwbag: A bag containing around 20 meters of rope that a guide uses to rescue a swimmer up to 20 meters away. Typically worn around the guides waist.
  • Trip Leader: The person who has overall responsibility on the river for all participants getting down the river safely. This person must have their WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certification.

Know before you go! Raft on!