Safety has been a core issue for AW since 1954, and today we are leaders in accident analysis and safety education. Formal risk management is part of all our programs. We work hard to publicize safe practices that help every American enjoy our rivers safely, and we advise legislative bodies and river managers on the best ways to educate whitewater paddlers. If you look back through the pages of the August 1955 and Winter 1957 American Whitewater Journal, you’ll see the International Scale of River Difficulty, the codification of a class I-IV whitewater classification system, was developed internationally and adopted and promoted by American Whitewater. Outdoor recreation and whitewater paddling specifically have inherent risks, however many whitewater accidents, especially for less experienced boaters, are preventable with some very basic whitewater safety knowledge.

  • Always Wear Your PFD (personal flotation device, commonly known as a life jacket)
  • Research the River You Plan to Paddle: Whitewater Difficulty, Optimal Flow Levels, Current Hazards, Predicted Weather, Remoteness
  • Avoid Extreme Weather and High Flows
  • Avoid Dams
  • Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

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