NWRA Trip Etiquette

What to Expect

Group trips are a great way to experience new rivers in comfort and safety with experienced boaters, meet new friends, and share our common passion for rivers. However, putting together a group of people who don't know one another and have different expectations can create challenges as well. Trip participants need to be aware that while many of our trip leaders are very experienced boaters, they are not professional guides, and they are not paid for what they do. They put substantial time, effort, and sometimes money into creating an experience for us all to enjoy, and their only reward is getting to run a river that they love and share it with like-minded people. Please remember this and treat them with respect and courtesy. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will make you a welcome addition to any trip.

  1. Be on time. Show up at the designated time and location. Don't make people wait for you. If you need to assemble your boat or gear, show up a bit early so that you are ready when everyone else is.

  2. Read all the information the trip leader sends you in advance. This will help you determine if you have the requisite skills and equipment for this particular trip, and if you will enjoy the activity planned and can actively contribute to it.

  3. Any questions about the trip should be addressed to the trip leader, preferably in advance of the trip. While other people may have some knowledge about the planned trip, they will not know the specific details or plans, and it just causes confusion to get second- or third-hand information.

  4. Be flexible. Sometimes the best laid plans fall apart. Rivers rise and fall, weather turns nasty, the composition of the group makes a certain run inadvisable, or any one of a number of other factors can cause a trip to be changed or canceled at the last minute. Go with the flow..

  5. Honestly assess your abilities. If this is a class IV trip, do you have class IV skills and equipment? While everyone is ultimately responsible for their own safety, most boaters usually try to keep an eye out for their buddies, and your nasty swim or wrecked boat could cause inadvertent problems for someone else. If you are unsure if you are up to the particular run, ask a more experienced boater or the trip leader. Depending on the composition of the group and the trip leader's comfort level with your skills, you may be able to go, but if they say "no", the answer is "no". There will always be another opportunity once you have demonstrated your skills and your ability to be an asset to the group. If they do give you the thumbs up, follow their instructions completely. If they tell you to stop and scout a rapid, stop and scout it. If they tell you to try to avoid a particular line, do so. They have put themselves out to try to help you, and you need to accept their guidance. A trip leader may try to place you in another raft so you can go along and gain experience.

  6. Be a contributing member of the group. Group trips require group participation. Remember the trip leader is not here to serve you but just to help facilitate the activity. You may be asked to help drive the shuttle, provide needed group equipment, help cook or wash dishes, put up a rain/shade tarp, etc. This is all part of the river experience, and you will probably even find that camp chores shared with friends can be fun.

  7. Be prepared to pay your own way. There are sometimes fees for campsites, extra vehicles, put-ins or take-outs, permits, or gas for shuttle drivers. Pay your fair share. No one likes having to arm wrestle someone for $$$.

  8. If you would like to do something that isn't on the trip itinerary, clear it with the trip leader first. Requests like, "I'd really like to stop and swim at Mermaid Beach", or "Can we jump at Deadman's Rock?" can sometimes be accommodated, but everyone needs to be aware of that in advance, and the trip leader needs to okay it first.

  9. Stick with the group. When we are on the water we usually have lead and sweep boats. The rule is "don't get in front of the lead boat, don't get behind the sweep boat, and if you can't see the boat behind you, slow down." This is a safety issue. This keeps us all together in case of emergencies, so that we are better able to respond to problems as a group. Enjoy the river, but don't dawdle . If the boat in front of you loses sight of you, they will start to worry.

  10. Respect the parameters the trip leaders set for the trip. There may be limits set on trip size, participation, alcohol or substance use, or required safety equipment. Remember that the trip leaders have a lot of responsibility, and their primary concern is your safety. What may seem like over-regulation to you, is often just their attempt to make sure everyone makes it home in one piece. There may be bigger issues than you are able to see at the moment, so accept their judgment and know that they have your best interests at heart.

  11. Leave the drama at home. We are here to relax and have a good time. If you have a disagreement with the trip leader or anyone else, take it up with them privately, preferably at another time. Be respectful and courteous of one another.

  12. And most importantly, HAVE FUN! That is, after all, what we are all here for… Enjoy the river, the scenery, the wildlife, and your new friends, who will likely be thrilled to see your name come up on the sign-up sheet the next time they go on a trip.

Make new friends and enjoy the outdoors safely with the NWRA