Riverman Course – Traditional Canoeing And Wilderness Guide Training

We’ve changed the curriculum of our guide training course for 2010, and renamed it the Riverman Course It’s the first week of our 4-week Canoe Expedition Semester, and takes place in early May when the rivers are swollen and the bugs are still sleeping.

This weeklong course prepares you for working as a professional guide and is crash course in canoeing and traditional camping. Our spot on the Aroostook River in Masardis is an outstanding place to learn the traditional arts of the canoe as practiced by Maine Guides for hundreds of years. Within seven miles of the field school we’ve got 5 different rivers of varying difficulty, as well as 18-mile long Squapan Lake. The canoe gods were smiling when they made it.

We’ll spend the week working on two different but related curriculums. First, you’ll learn and refine the skills of paddling, poling and lining canoes on increasingly challenging water. You’ll explore this beautiful area and learn the personalities of it’s waterways. The second curriculum focuses on the management and leadership of a group and the skills of keeping them comfortable. This isn’t a theoretical course on leadership like what is commonly offered through outdoor clubs; instead it’s a focused on the crucial skills that make or break a trip taught by professional, working guides. We’ll cover navigation with a map and compass, what do do if someone in your party gets lost, how to plan, pack and prepare meals over an open fire, trip equipment and how to use, care for and maintain it, and how to light a fire under any conditions. Learn to stand in a canoe, pole up and down rapids, cook over an open fire, read the river to determine safe passages and gain the most useful asset a guide can have; experience.

Participants will learn to:

* Plan, prepare, provision, pack, and guide a wilderness trip
* Efficiently paddle a loaded canoe
* Pole and snub a canoe
* Set-up and line a canoe through rapids
* Tie useful and appropriate knots
* Use an axe, knife, and saw safely and effectively
* Sharpen their axe and knife
* Light a fire in dry or wet weather
* Cook and bake over an open fire
* Navigate with a map and compass
* Take decisive action in case a member of their group gets lost
* Tie a tumpline onto a wanigan and a canoe for ease of carrying
* Bake with sourdough
* Safely manage a group in whitewater
* Set up tents and tarps

Course Schedule

Sunday: Arrive between 4 and 6 and set up camp. We’ll meet, have dinner and discuss the week.

Monday: We’ll start the week on the big water of Squapan Lake, learning the basics of poling and teaching such paddling strokes as the knifing J and pitch stroke for efficient forward motion.

Tuesday: We’ll add the moving water component on the Aroostook River. You’ll build on what you’ve already learned, then learn the way of the river and how it controls the boat. You’ll learn to work with this elemental force, poling upstream and snubbing down. We’ll also have a several mile float from the Masardis Trading Post back to the field school, stopping on the way to work on controlling the boat in Island Rips.

Wednesday: We’ll add in the skills of maneuvering on a smaller stream as we float down the Blackwater River and St. Croix Stream. The challenges here are narrow passages, beaver dams, strainers, and more. You’ll be challenged, but you’ll be ready for it as a result of what we’ve already accomplished.

Thursday: Thursday morning we’ll cover trip preparation and planning. We’ll go through the checklists we’ve developed, plan the meals, pack the gear, then head into the North Maine Woods where we’ll set up camp along the Big Machias River. We’ll work on poling in the river and camp for the night.

Friday: We’ll be up early and on the water for the long float back to town. It will take us most of the day to paddle and pole through the many rips and rapids of this lively waterway. Along the way you’ll see the beautiful scenery of this seldom-paddled north woods gem. When we get back to town we’ll head over to Blackwater Outfitters, where a room for the night and a hot shower are included in the tuition. After getting cleaned up we’ll have dinner together (not included in the tuition), then say our farewells before turning in for the night.

2010 Course Info:
• Dates: 5/2-5/8
• Maximum Size: 10
• Tuition: $850
• Minimum Age: 18


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