Gearing Up for Rafting Season in West Virginia

March is a mere week away.  And even if Mother Nature has a few more days of snow and cold planned, something about March lifts folks spirits and lets them believe winter is over. It also means that rafting companies and guides will be preparing for another whitewater season.

Before guests show up to be “whitewatered”, there is a great amount of work and planning that goes into getting ready for a rafting season. Both companies and guides have things that they do before the season starts to get ready for 8 months of fun.

Here's a little bit of what goes on before the rafting season gets rolling.

Gear - Check and Recheck

Even though it was packed away nice and neatly in preparation for winter, rafting gear will all be inspectedagain before being put into use for a season. Rafts will all be inflated to make sure they hold air. Helmets and PFD's will have their buckles all checked and inspected for any problems or defects. Wetsuits will be examined to make sure they still stink (a little raft guide humor there folks).  Guides will do this with their own personal equipment too.

There are also medical kits that will have to be checked and rechecked to make sure all contents are present, accounted for, and in-date. We're not talking just about bandages and gauze here; splints, cervical collars and EPI pens are part of these kits. Whitewater trips try to anticipate what medical needs they might have while on the river.

Guide Training

Every spring, companies prepare for the upcoming season by providing training refreshers for their staff. This is the time when outfitters decide how many new guides they'll need and start formal guide training programs. Every guide, no matter how many years they've worked, has to take classes on first aid, CPR and Swiftwater Rescue. Being able to use the things in those aforementioned kits is as important as carrying them.

Guide training can take a long time, so starting early in the season is crucial. Requiring trainees to go out when conditions are less than favorable is a way of weaning out people who may not have the dedication to be a professional guide. By the time they complete a training program, every guide will have boating skills, first aid skills, rescue skills and be ready to take guests on their whitewater adventure.

These are just some of the things that will be going on at river outfitters starting here in a few weeks. And soon we'll have some tips to help you gear up for a rafting trip before you come to paddle.