Level 3: Advanced Whitewater & Safety Skills This course is for those with previous whitewater packrafting experience wanting to strengthen paddle skills & boat control in class III whitewater. Participants must be skilled/proficient with self rescue, river safety and have prior experience reading and paddling up to class III whitewater with adequate boat control. This course is geared towards the aspiring class IV boater, or those seeking to refine & build their whitewater paddling technique & rescue skills.
LEVEL 3: ADVANCED WHITEWATER & SAFETY SKILLS
PREREQUISITES: Level 2 course, swiftwater rescue training, or mastery of level 2 curriculum (from personal experience or other courses/training).
The Level 3 course requires previous whitewater packrafting experience- ideal for a river enthusiast who’s eager to strengthen paddle skills & boat control in class III whitewater. Participants must already be skilled/proficient with self rescue, river safety and have prior experience reading and paddling up to class III whitewater with adequate boat control. This course is geared towards the aspiring class IV boater, or those seeking to learn & refine whitewater paddling techniques & rescue skills.
Please note: Level 2 & 3 courses have similar written curriculums, but Level 3 students receive much less formal classroom time, as it’s expected they are already familiar with Level 2 content, through previous instruction or first hand experience. Level 3 focuses heavily on intermediate paddle techniques with less explanation of basic river safety & water mechanics.
Day 1: Anchorage, Goose Lake
Day 2-3: Eagle River or Willow Creek
- Paddle Strokes: Forward, backward, sweep, bracing & draw strokes
- Effective body mechanics
Safety & Rescue
- Wet exit & re-entry techniques/self rescue
- Assisted & group rescue techniques
- Defensive swimming techniques
- Practical scenarios/drills on flat & class III moving water
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
- Hydrology: rocks,pillows, holes & waves
- Cold water
- Undercuts & ice
- Catching eddies
- Navigating river features & hazards
- "Read & running” rapids
- Linking multiple moves, finding new challenges within rapids
- Communication & signaling: universal river signals
- Group organization on the river
- Scouting & portaging
- Attainments: the art & joy of upstream paddling
Day 1: 5-8/9pm
Location: Goose Lake
We’ll gear up at Goose Lake before group introductions & course expectations. Flatwater is the ideal venue to really “nerd out,” paying close attention to how we are moving the boat, our body mechanics while paddling- we’ll use VIDEO ANALYSIS; the instructor records you demonstrating various paddle strokes. Getting to watch how you paddle is a powerful tool allowing you to implement feedback & suggestions. We can “hear” suggestions, but when you actually “see” yourself, you get the meaning behind the words, a visual helps you make the necessary tweaks & changes that make us better whitewater packrafters. We end with reviewing self/group rescue & safety scenarios along with creative drills & exercises requiring you to use your quick but precise “on the water decision making” skills.
Day 2: 9am-5pm
Location: Willow Creek’s Shirley Town Bridge. Guardrail & Red Gate sections are options, but depend on current water levels in relation to group ability.
We continue to refine & integrate paddling skills & precise boat control on class II-III water. Emphasis on integrating more advanced strokes such as bow draws, bracing & effective body mechanics to enhance ferrying & eddy catching ability. Instructors are continuously providing personal feedback & skills/drills suggestions, but allow students the opportunity to tap into their own “on the water judgment calls.”
Skills such as reading the river, finding your own lines vs following a more experienced boater. Considering the bigger picture/outside of your own experience: safety concerns, continuously identifying potential hazards, human factors such as individual experience levels affecting group proximity/spacing & communication considerations while on the water.
We finish the day, staging safety scenarios on moving water, providing opportunities to practice what to do/not do when things don’t go as planned, such as: capsizing boats, whitewater swimming, self-rescue, critical thinking & decision making (as both the victim & the rescuer), group rescue techniques/considerations, how to help swimmers & when/how to effectively handle & retrieve lost gear.
Day 3: 9am-5pm
Location: Willow Creek, Shirley Town Bridge.
Ideally water levels are appropriate & we’ve developed the skills required to paddle Guardrail, a popular section of Willow among experienced paddlers. Guardrail’s difficulty changes significantly with iits water level.;. During peak snow melt or a heavy rain event, Guardrail feels like a pretty “busy” class IV run with dangerous swim potential. remains class III ranging from III/IV among Willow Creek but this depends on water levels & group ability.
We continue to refine paddle skills, boat control and river reading throughout the morning session. The best way to become a better paddler lies in intentional practice & play, finding & trying harder moves or different lines within the rapids.
We really “work” the river, refining our skills with drills, exercises & direct feedback. Students don’t simply identify the easiest option & cruise downstream, but seek out challenging features- lines requiring experience & skill to practice on. n the afternoon we practice rescue scenarios on class III moving water. (Throw rope use, self-rescue, assisted rescue & group rescue).
Course closes with discussion about multi-day trips & special Alaska/wilderness considerations.
Q & A, debrief and overall wrap up before departure.
Level 3 Gear Requirements
- Packraft (whitewater outfitting required for Level 3: spray skirt & combing/self bailer, thigh straps, foot block & supportive backband)
- Effective “grab loop” on bow and stern/perimeter line
- Whitewater helmet (climbing or bike helmets not acceptable)
- Whitewater PFD: min 15.5 lbs floatation, (w/whistle & rescue knife securely attached)
- Whitewater paddle; breakdown or full length (large power face; shaft under 210 cm)
- 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 attach to boat, NO non locking carabiners)
- Water bottle, lunch, snacks
- State Parks annual decal or day parking pass (for Eagle River courses)
River Difficulty: Class III/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