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ACA Level 4 Swiftwater Rescue Course and Training

Rio Grande
Multi Day
Minimum Age 16

About the trip

Our Swiftwater Rescue workshop teaches recognition and avoidance of common river hazards, execution of self-rescue techniques, and rescue techniques for paddlers in distress. This course is invaluable for both private and commercial boaters alike. Getting ready to plan a private trip with your regular crew of friends? Think about chartering your own course with us before your next trip for invaluable information and skills as well as a great piece of mind knowing that everyone has each other's back!

  • Led by world class ACA trainers
  • Immersive instruction focused on technical and thinking skills
  • Nationally recognized ACA certification
  • Perfect venue for river features on the Rio Grande

This trip meets at our private, Rio Grande Headquarters which is conveniently located 1 hour north of Santa Fe and 30 min. south of Taos. Our fully stocked Headquarters and Outfitters Shop is in the heart of the Rio Grande Gorge right across the street from the river, less than 1 mile from the finishing point of the most popular trips and offers safe, secure parking in our private parking lot.

For directions to our Rio Grande Headquarters click here!

What time of year are you courses offered?
Dates for all of our ACA certification courses in December and January and vary year to year. We usually offer courses in the Spring and Fall. Our custom courses are available at different times throughout the season, please contact our helpful reservation staff for more information and to reserve your space.

What kind of certification will I receive?
Our ACA courses have the opportunity to receive up to a level 4 certification in each skill. Certifications are determined by class participation, understanding of the material and skills.

Who will my instructors be?
All of our instructors are industry leaders with a high level of skill and experience. Their patient, knowledgeable approach to each skill will set you up for not only a fruitful but fun experience.

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Emphasis is placed both on personal safety and on simple, commonly used skills. Fundamental and more advanced techniques for dealing with hazards that carry greater risks for both victim and rescuer, such as strainers, rescue vest applications, entrapments, and pins, also are practiced. Scenarios will provide an opportunity for participants to practice their skills both individually and within a team/group context.

Course Objectives

  • Promote proactive prevention of river accidents and injuries.
  • Develop and practice key self-rescue skills.
  • Identify and avoid river hazards by understanding hydrology, hazards, and river features.
  • Focus on fast, low-risk strategies for early management of river accidents
  • Develop and practice methods for recovering swimmers, and loose boats and equipment
  • Develop and practice more advanced rope-based and in-water skills
  • Gain experience using the rescue PFD, and understand its strengths and weaknesses
  • Utilize rescue scene management principles needed within a paddling group

Here is a brief overview of the two day course and what to expect

Day 1:

  • Introductions
  • Talk through Standard Operating Procedure for river rescue
  • SWR Incident Management and roles
  • Overview of SWR Equipment (specific to what team uses)
  • Knots Overview
  • River Session @ Souse Hole covering gaining access methods (Wading, Swimming…)
  • Brief Overview of equipment for recreationalists (What everyone should have on the river)
  • Knots for recreational users & Knot Test for SAR (In two groups)
  • Throw Bag Use (Dry Land Intro)

Day 2:

  • Introductions
  • Pins & Entrapments
  • Methods for unpinning Boats (Anchoring to boats, Direct Pull, Vector Pull & Mechanical Advantage)
  • Foot Entrapment – Methods for stabilization & extraction
  • River session @ Souse Hole covering Advanced skills – Tethered Swimmer & V-Lowers
  • Rotate Through Scenarios two different advanced scenarios
  • Accident Avoidance
  • Hazards & Hydrology
  • Scene Assessment & Management
  • River session @ Souse Hole Covering “Quick Rescues” Two Stations – Boat Based rescue & Throw Bagging
  • Two Scenarios @ end of day for groups to rotate through

Boating Gear

Boat* (Kayak, Inflatable Kayak, SUP) Paddle, Helmet, PFD, shoes, skirt, warm clothing

*We will use boats mostly for scenarios and drills. Our course will take place in a stationary setting. No need to bring bigger crafts.

Rescue Gear

Throw Bag, Whistle, Knife
*You will need a Type V Rescue PFD to participate in some higher level skills throughout the course. We have a few extras that we can allow people to share.

Pre Course Work

Check out these Video Knot Tutorials – Having practiced these before the course can greatly increase our time on the water and doing other skills.


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