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How The National Park Service Prepares For Whitewater Rafting

Imagine your perfect whitewater experience. Got it?

I’m guessing somewhere in that thought there are some seriously huge waves, a lot of sunshine, a raft full of your craziest friends and one cool raft guide.

Sounds like a good time to us. And fortunately for you, there are people out there who live to make it the most perfect experience possible.

So who’s in charge of making it all happen safely? It starts with the National Park Service.

Safety First

The NPS’s  job is to make sure your rafting trip is not only adrenaline-packed, but safe. Before you even begin to plan your trip on the river, the NPS is already making preparations for you.

The National Park Service is making it easy for Scouts to Go Big and Get Wild. (Photo by Summit Blog Staff)

For instance, park rangers patrol the New and Gauley Rivers before the season begins to ensure all radio towers and communications are in working order, and that rescue and safety equipment are up-to-date and placed on the shores.

In addition, all park rangers participate in a 2-day high angle ropes and rescue course and, as of this year, a 4-day American Canoe Association swiftwater rescue instructor class.

But rangers aren’t the only ones training.

The NPS also offers a Trip Leader Workshop to create better awareness amongst trip leaders, or TL for short. The TL is the raft guide designated with the responsibility to get customers down the river in a safe and organized fashion.

The TL workshop covers emergency access, radio communications, TL responsibilities and the NPS’s role on the river.

But that’s not all. The NPS does even more to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

“We have elevated our level of emergency care on the river,” says Kathy Zerkle, NPS nurse and ranger. “This year we have a nurse in the north district river program — that’s me — and a paramedic in the south district.”

[pullquote]“We have elevated our level of emergency care on the river.” — Kathy Zerkle, NPS[/pullquote]

Zerkle says that park rangers have even started carrying automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) just in case.

It’s safe to say that whether you’re floating down the gorge or tearing up the Gauley, you’re in good hands. So when you’re at the Summit Bechtel Reserve for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree and you’re enjoying that face full of whitewater, send a mental thank you to all those working to make your adventure a safe one.


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