River folk all speak the same language. It’s important to be able to effectively communicate while on the river – within your group and with other boaters on the river. You don’t want to be that guy swimming down the river after falling out of your ducky and not fully understand what the hippy-looking dude on the side of the river is getting ready to throw at you… To help you not be that guy, here is a list of river terms.
*We admit that this is not a complete list. We will add to it over time.
Alluvial: Material carried or laid down by running water. Alluvium is the natural material deposited by streams. It includes gravel, sand, silt, and clay.
Back Pivot: Turning the boat from a ferry angle to a stem-downstream position. Used in tight places to recover from an extreme ferry angle, this maneuver tightens the passing space of the boat and allows it to closely pass obstructions.
Backroller: A broad reversal such as that formed below a dam or ledge.
Bar: An accumulation of sand, gravel, or rock in the river channel or along the banks. Hello Sandbar.
Basket Boat: A 15-foot military-surplus raft-constructed of an upper and lower buoyancy tube.
Beam: The width of a boat at its widest point.
Belay: To wrap a line around a rock or tree so as to slow or stop Slippage. This technique allows one person to hold a line under great pull.
Below: refers to anything “Downriver from.”
Big Water: Large Volume, fast current, big waves, often accompanied by huge reversals and extreme general turbulence.
Boil: A water current upwelling into a convex mound.
Boulder Fan: A sloping, fan-shaped mass of boulders deposited by a tributary stream where it enters into the main canyon. These often constrict the river, causing rapids.
Boulder Garden: A rapid filled with boulders that requires precise maneuvering.
Bow: Front of a boat/raft
Bow-In: To point the bow forward.
Broach: To turn a boat broadside to the current – often times causing a boat/raft to capsize in Big Water.
Cartwheeling: To spin a boat/raft just before colliding with a rock so that it rotates the boat/raft off and around the rock/obstacle.
CFS: Measurement for water volume: Cubic feet per second.
Channel: A section of river that is an ideal route for a boat/raft to navigate.
Chute: A clear channel between obstructions. It is often times steeper and faster than the surrounding water.
Confluence: Where two rivers meet.
Curler: A type of reversal, a Curler is a high steep wave that curls back onto its own upstream face.
Dig: When the captain screams “Hard Forward” and “Dig” the other rafters should forcefully paddle their blades deep to grab the stronger downstream current. This is the most effective way to power boats/rafts through large holes especially when used by the two bow paddlers just as the boat hits the holes.
Double-Oar Turn: Refers to when the captain simultaneously pulls on one oar while pushing on the other.
Draw Stroke: Only effective only with small, light boats/rafts it is the process of pulling the boat/raft sideways towards the paddle.
D-Ring: Metal, D-shaped ring attached to a raft. Used to secure frames, lines, ropes and the all important cooler amongst other items.
Drop: Think waterfall… It’s an abrupt descent.
Easy-Rower Washer: A washer placed between the oar and the frame to reduce friction.
Eddy: Often found on the inside of bends in the river, an Eddy is a place where the current turns to head upstream or stops all together.. Usually used as a point of rest.
Eddy Line: A sharp boundary at the edge of an eddy between two currents of different velocity or direction. Usually marked by swirling water and bubbles. Also called an eddy fence and an eddy wall.
Ferry: Moving a boat laterally across a current.
Flip line: A line used to turn a flipped/capsized boat/raft right side up. Often times tied to a boat’s bottom or worn as a belt around a captains’s/guide’s waist.
Flood Plain: A section of river, next to the river channel, which is built of sediments deposited by the river and is covered with water when the river overflows its banks at flood stages.
Foot cup: A piece of Rubber that allows a rafter to place (secure) their foot and can help rafters stay in the boat. Also called toe cups or foot cones.
Freeboard: The distance from the water surface to the top of the raft tube.
Galloway Position: Position for oar boats, the oarsman/captain faces the bow.
Gate: A narrow, short passage between two river obstacles.
Grip: Upper end of a single-bladed paddle, shaped like a “T” for holding with the palm over the top.
Haystack: A large standing wave caused by deceleration of a current.
High Float Life Jacket: Refers to a lifejacket with 22 or more pounds floatation.
High Side: Usually the first shoreline command taught during orientation, it refers to moving to the downstream side of the raft, ASAP. This command is used just before collisions with rocks and other obstructions. If the crew is quick enough, the raft’s upstream side is lifted up in time to let the current slide under rather than into the raft. This action often prevents the raft from becoming wrapped.
Hoopi: Ok. this is webbing. Why it is not just called “Webbing” none of us know… We advise that you start calling it webbing… because calling it “Hoopi” makes no sense. Lets start the trend.
Hung Up: A raft that is caught on but not wrapped around a rock or other obstacle.
Lean In: A command that alerts the crew members to shift their weight inward over the boat so that if they lose their balance, they will fall into, rather than out of, the boat.
Ledge: The exposed edge of a rock that acts as a low natural dam or as a series dams.
Left Bank: Left side of the river when facing downstream.
Lining: The use of ropes to work a boat/raft down through a rapid from shore.
Logjam: A strainer dam of logs across a river. Very common on small streams in wooded areas.
Meander: A loop-like bend in the river.
Oar Clip: The “U” shaped holder that helps connect the Oars to the boat.
Painter: A line, usually about 15-20 feet long, attached to the bow of the boats/rafts and the stern of oar rafts. Not to be confused with the much longer bow and stern lines.
Pillow: The layer of slack water that pads the upstream face of rocks and other obstructions. The broader the upstream face, the more ample the pillow.
Pivot: Turning the raft from a ferry angle to a bow-downstream Position. This narrows the passing space of the boat, allowing it to slide closely past obstructions.
Rapid: A fast, turbulent stretch of river. As Robin Williams once said about golf, rapids will also have “shit in your way.”
Riffle: A shallow rapid with very small waves, often over a sand or gravelbottom. Does not rate a grade on either the Western or the International scale of difficulty.
Right Bank: Right side of the river when facing downstream.
Rock Garden: A rapid filled with exposed or partially covered rocks.
Rowing Frame: A rigid frame that provides a seat for the oarsman and allows the boat/raft to be controlled by large oars.
Scout: To examine a rapid from shore.
Section: A portion of river located between two points; a stretch.
Set Up Safety: Position toss bag throwers and/or rescue boats at key points along and/or below a rapid to provide rescue support for boats coming through.
Sleeper: Submerged rock or boulder just below the surface.
Smoker: An extremely violent rapid.
Sneak: refers to taking the easy route around a difficult spot – you’ll often hear shouts of “sissy and pussy” when a sneak is being performed – we like to refer to it as being “smart.”
Staircase: When a stretch of river flows over a series of rocks/rapids and resembles a “staircase.”
Stern: Ass end of the boat. Back of the Boat if you want to be PC.
Strainer: These guys suck. and are dangerous/lethal. Essentially, they are Brush, fallen trees, bridge pilings, or anything else that allows the current to run through but pins boots and boaters. These F’ers will kill you. literally.
Stretch: A portion of river located between two points.
Toss Bag: Often referred to as a throw bag and/or rescue bag. It is a football-sized bag stuffed with a floating line. The thrower holds one end of the line and tosses the bag to swimmers in a rapid. Normally, we suggest that you use an underarm toss but if you come across a group of morons who decided to float through something such as Dowd Junction during high water with their boats ill-prepared and they themselves lacking in skill, feel free to call your inner-most MLB self and fast ball that bag at their heads… You’ll save their lives and the bruise left on their forehead will remind them everyday of their stupidity… If the group who happened to give Kyle and I the experience to write this, you know who you are… I hope you learned something that day. No, we will not be sending you the GoPro video of the event.
Trim: The angle of the boat in relation to the water line.
Triple-Rig: Referring to a 3-person raft/boat.
Wet Suit: A neoprene suit that fits tightly against the skin. It allows for a thin layer of water to enter and your body then warms the water creating an insulated layer.
Wrapped: Referring to a Raft/Boat that is pinned around a rock or other obstruction by the river current.
Z-Rig: A rope and pulley system which quadruples a group’s strength. Used for unwrapping boats.