Level 2: Whitewater Essentials For paddlers with previous packrafting experience wanting to strengthen their ability to read and paddle class II-III rivers; packraft specific safety skills & rescue scenarios are also practiced.
PREREQUISITES: Level 1 course, swiftwater rescue training, or mastery of level 1 curriculum from either personal experience or other courses/training.
Day 1: Anchorage, Goose Lake
Day 2-3: Eagle River and/or Willow Creek
- Gear for river & whitewater paddling
- Stowing gear & rigging for whitewater
- Paddle Strokes: Forward, backward, sweep strokes, draws & bracing
- Effective body mechanics
Safety & Rescue
- Wet exit & re-entry techniques/self rescue
- Assisted & group rescue techniques
- Defensive swimming techniques
- Practical scenarios & practice on flat & moving water
- Using throw ropes: a hazard & a tool
Fundamentals of River Mechanics
- International Scale of River Difficulty (American Whitewater Safety Code)
- Current (cfs), volume, gradient, water levels
- Down & upstream V's
- Eddies & eddy lines
- Ledges & horizon lines
- Wood hazards
- Rocks and pillows
- Holes and hydraulics
- Cold water
- Undercuts & ice
- Catching eddies
- Navigating river features & hazards
- Communication & signaling: universal river signals
- Group organization on the river
- Scouting & portaging
- Multi-day & Wilderness Trip Considerations
Day 1: 5-9pm
Location: Goose Lake
We gear up & meet for group introductions & course expectations. We practice paddle strokes, receiving individual feedback to refine technique & proper body mechanics. Instructors demonstrate effective methods for re-entering a capsized boat (self-rescue & whitewater swimming practice). We take full advantage of the warm temperatures & calm water to practice group rescue scenarios & quick decision making before applying it to moving water later in the course.
Day 2: 9am-5pm
Location: “Bridge to Bridge” section, Eagle River. Meet at Eagle River Day Use Area
We focus on reading rivers and class II whitewater while growing our paddling skills & boat control. Day 2 emphasizes catching eddies & effective ferrying to maneuver within fast current. Awareness of downstream hazards and how to scout & portage rapids are taught.
Students may have the opportunity to negotiate a class III rapid feature by the end of the day. Running a portion of Campground Rapid is always “challenge by choice,” & up to instructor discretion based on student ability & current water levels/river hazards. Whether we paddle it or not, Campground Rapid is a great opportunity to practice scouting, risk assessment and possibly “setting safety” for those who run the rapid.
Day 3: 9am-5pm
Location: TBD depending on water levels. Eagle River or “Red Gate” section, Willow Creek.
Day 3 begins with a “mini classroom” session: unpacking basic hydrology concepts & how it applies to packrafters. Throw rope rescue techniques are demonstrated & practiced on dry land before going to the river. Additional rapid scouting tools are shared before continuing with paddle skills, boat control and river reading throughout the morning session.
Once we’re warmed up, get ready for some “controlled chaos!” The rest of the day, we practice various rescue scenarios in swift current. Swimming, or having an “out of boat experience” is a part of packrafting; practicing what to do & how to help your partners is crucial and an essential component of the sport.
So the saying goes: In whitewater, things are fine….fine….fine….not fine, NOT FINE-NOTFINE !!*@*&^*#%!) Rivers are in constant motion- safety conditions change quickly, & demand calm precision when responding to a personal or group rescue situation. Sufficient rescue skills & timely reactions come only by practice. And more practice after you practice. Instructors are skilled at creating opportunities to practice these tools in a controlled setting with a “challenge by choice” but encouraging attitude. (Throw rope use, self-rescue, assisted rescue & group rescue) Course closes at the takeout with discussion about multi-day trips & Alaska/wilderness considerations.
Q & A, debrief and course wrap up before departure.
Level 2 Gear Requirements
- Packraft (w/ appropriate whitewater outfitting: combing & spray skirt/self-bailer, foot block, seat, backbend, thigh straps). Thigh straps highly recommended for Level 2 courses or anyone interested in whitewater paddling
- Inflation method
- Effective “grab loop” on bow (or bow bag) and stern/perimeter grab loop and/or line
- Whitewater Helmet (climbing or bike helmets not acceptable)
- Whitewater PFD, min 15.5 lbs flotation. (PFD must be outfitted with: whistle & rescue knife)
- Whitewater paddle (large power face; under 210 cm, breakdown or full length okay)
- Drysuit (wetsuits okay, but not recommended)
- Appropriate base-layers/insulation
- Throw bag (50 ft min)
- Paddling pogies/gloves (optional)
- Footwear (running shoes/neoprene paddling booties, no open toed shoes/sandals/crocs)
- Dry bag or bow bag for personal gear (must securely attach to boat, NO non locking carabiners)
- Water bottle, lunch, snacks
- State Parks Decal or day parking pass (for Eagle River courses)
River Difficulty: Class II-III
2.5 days, 20 hr
Eagle River & Willow Creek
Meet up at:
If you require gear rentals to participate in a course, call or email the school to confirm availability & make your gear reservation PRIOR TO ONLINE REGISTRATION & PAYMENT!
Packrafts & drysuit rentals are limited; these items also have size specifications.
If you book & pay for a course without rental confirmation you are responsible for providing the gear list items- people often borrow from friends or rent from elsewhere.
- Packraft $40 day ($80 full course)
- Drysuit $30 day ($60 full course)
- Paddle $5 day ($10 full course)
- PFD: $5 day ($10 full course)
- Whitewater Helmet: $5 day ($10 full course)
Everything: (boat, drysuit, paddle, PFD, helmet for L2/3): $50 day or $100 full course
Latest Past Events
This is a custom course for the Wojtowicz group; registration only for this party (not open to public).
This is a classic “must do”overnight trip with excellent “packraft symmetry.” Hiking the Crow Pass Trail then paddling Eagle River offers all the best parts of Alaska: traveling the Historic Iditarod Trail, viewing historic mining areas, taking in waterfall views & epic glacial scenery in the high alpine before floating downstream. Packrafting Eagle River vs hiking down the valley allows better opportunities for wildlife spotting & taking in the surrounding Chugach Mountains.
For paddlers with previous packrafting experience wanting to strengthen their ability to read and paddle class II-III rivers. 2 full days
Related Courses & Trips
Level 3: Adv. Whitewater Skills & Safety
This course is for those with previous whitewater packrafting experience wanting to strengthen paddle skills & boat control in class III whitewater. Geared towards the aspiring class IV boater, or those seeking to refine & build their whitewater paddling technique & rescue skills.