SWIRLIN’ EDDY’S BRIEF GUIDE TO RIVER LINGO!
Lovingly contributed by Swirlin’ Eddy for Wild West Voyages
When you embark on a river trip, it often feels as if you’re in a separate world. And you are! Swept away from the asphalt tributaries, the comforts of home and the cacophony of sounds resonating from urban living, you’re instead riding life’s greatest highway: the river.
Complete with this whole new world you’re navigating is a new set of vocab. To help, here is a rafter’s guide to whitewater lingo. Now you’ll not only be able to talk the talk with your friendly Wild West Voyages guides and guests, but you’ll feel at home on the river yourself.
We can’t wait to talk boofs, dumptrucks and haystacks with you!
Special shout out to Row Adventures (sharing nature and enriching lives since 1979) for contributing a bunch of this material.
Alluvial: As in an “alluvial bar” or “alluvial fan.” Refers to material carried by running water and deposited by the river. Such as the land on which Red Cliffs Lodge now stands.
Boil: Caused by water flowing over a deeply submerged rock or by construction, this is seen where water on the surface swells and looks as if it is actually boiling. Hence the funky currents near Big Bend and Locals Beach.
Boof: When a raft bumps purposefully into a rock, or a kayaker uses the water’s cushion next to a rock to do a “boof move.”
Booties: Neoprene boots worn for warmth.
Breaking Wave: Unlike ocean waves that are waves of motion, river waves remain in the same place. A breaking wave falls back on itself with a constant or intermittent white froth.
CFS: Acronym for cubic feet per second. Knowing the CFS of a river tells you how big or small the volume is. 500-3000 cfs for example is a smaller river, while 50,000 cfs or more is huge. This year the local Colorado River reached 39,900 cfs on June 11th.
Chute: Where the river flows between obstacles like rocks, or a rock and a cliff. Usually narrow and sometimes fast.
Classification System: The river rating (from I-VI) of a series of rapids or even the river as a whole, which indicates how difficult the section is to navigate.
Confluence: The place where two or more rivers meet.
Dig: “Dig in team” shouts the guide! This means to bury your paddle deep in the current for a stronger stroke. Often heard from paddle raft guides while entering New Rapid or Whites Rapid on the Moab Daily.
Dry Bag: A bag that keeps water out, and if closed correctly, keeps the contents within dry. Best not to keep your water bottle in this.
Dumptruck: When a raft turns on its side and dumps everyone out, but then rights itself without flipping over.
Eddy: An area in the river where the shape of the river’s edge and contour of the bottom cause the current to turn around and go upstream. We have lots of these around here, but the most famous is All Day Eddy just upriver from Take Out Beach. It can be longer than a football field, and pull boaters back upstream, again and again.
Ferry: Moving across a river. An “upstream ferry” is used to cross a river while losing as little downstream distance as possible. A “downstream ferry” works with the current and so moves quickly. “That was a great ferry angle.”
Haystack (or Domer): A wave that is caused by fast water running into slower current due to a drop in gradient. Usually makes for big, fun waves with no obstacles.
Hole: Also known as a hydraulic or reversal, a place where water drops over a rock and curls back on itself creating aerated, frothy water. Everyone’s least favorite place to swim.
Lateral: A large wave that breaks at a strong angle relative to the main downstream current.
Line: “The best line in this rapid is left of that boulder.” The route through a rapid to avoid obstacles. “Wishing you clean lines today!”
Oar Raft: A raft that is controlled by a person who sits on a rowing frame that is in the center of the craft. This guide rows with oars, not paddles.
Outfitter: A person with a passion for running outdoor trips who has invested large amounts of capital and energy to do so. Their passion often outweighs business sense. Not to be confused with a gear or clothing outfitter.
Paddle Raft: A raft propelled by a group of people with paddles (not oars).
PFD: Your Personal Flotation Device. Used to be called a life jacket.
Pool: Found between rapids, this is a deep and quiet stretch of slow-moving river.
Rapid: Usually a highlight of a river trip! A formation in a river caused by gradient and either constriction or obstacles (such as rocks), or both.
Run: “That’s a nice run” means a river that has a great section for boating, whether by kayak, raft or other craft.
Safety Talk: The talk given prior to starting a trip on a river that covers the techniques and things you need to know to help yourself should something go amiss.
Slay: An emphatic way of saying you done good. As in “You totally slayed that run!”
Sleeper: A rock that sits just under the water and is hard to detect. Sometimes called a Rockagator.
Sneak: Sometimes a difficult rapid will have a “sneak route” where a more difficult route can be avoided. Conversely, Rocky Rapid on the local Colorado has a sneak just above it, in case you don’t want to miss it!
Standing Wave: When fast-moving water collides with slow-moving water a static and usually large wave appears.
Swimmer: When you fall out of a raft you become a swimmer.
Take-Out: A river access, where the river trip ends. Sad, so sad.
Throw bag: A bag filled with floating rope or line that can be used to retrieve a swimmer.
Undercut: Mostly found on rivers with softer rock (limestone, sandstone), this refers to the place where current flows under a rock, overhang, or ledge. Best to avoid.
Whitewater: Often actually white in color, but on a muddy river like the Colorado can be brown, this is the churning, bubbly, water found in rapids.
Wild West Voyages specializes in family-friendly guided day tours on the Colorado River and hosts a HIGH ROPES CHALLENGE COURSE on site in downtown Moab. Call them for boutique rafting, kayaking, and Stand Up Paddle tours, rentals, river shuttle service, or a Ropes-n-Boats adventure day! Customized and private trips available. 435-355-0776 / 844-494-5393; www.wildwestvoyages.com
Lovingly penned by Swirlin’ Eddy For Wild West Voyages