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Trip Guidelines



The purpose of the Canoe Cruisers is to unite persons interested in paddling the Potomac River Basin and adjacent watersheds. Our trip coordinators willingly and enthusiastically plan outings to get paddlers on a variety of local rivers and streams. 


By participating in these outings, you release the Club, its members, trip coordinators and fellow paddlers from responsibility for any injuries due to any act or omission which may affect your safety and well-being.

Please contact the trip coordinator before heading out for a trip.  Any unusual amount of rain (or lack thereof), and the resulting high (or low) water, can cause trips to be cancelled or relocated. If you must cancel, tell the coordinator early, as their calculation of boats/cars/drivers and running the post-trip shuttle can be affected.

Trip Participants

All participants on the trip explicitly acknowledge and accept that boating is hazardous. Changing conditions, cold, high water and  hazards, sometimes in remote locations, can make rescue difficult.


Participants are responsible for learning and practicing the techniques necessary to recognize and avoid paddling hazards. Participants are responsible for acquiring boating safety and rescue skills commensurate with the level of difficulty of the river on which they are paddling. Participants are responsible for learning about proper equipment under generally accepted safe boating standards.


Don’t endanger your life and the lives of others by trying to boat on water beyond your ability.

Never Boat Alone!


Life jackets (PFDs) are required by law.

Helmets are required in whitewater.

Boats, gear and clothing must be appropriate for the expected conditions.


Specifically, you are solely responsible for these decisions at all times:

  • The decision to go on any trip.
  • The decision to put-in the selected river (which may not be the scheduled river)
     under conditions existing at the time of the put-in.
  • The decision as to what equipment to take with you.
  • The decision whether to scout any rapid.
  • The decision whether to run any rapid.
  • The decision whether to participate in any rescue of persons or recovery of any equipment.
  • The decision to pass up any walk out or take out opportunity.

Trip Coordinators


Trip coordinators are experienced and dedicated members of the Canoe Cruisers Association. However, they are not required to have formal training in whitewater boating skills and trip management, boating safety skills, first aid or CPR. The trip participant is welcome to ask about the depth of the coordinator’s skills. It is the participant’s decision whether the trip coordinator’s qualifications are satisfactory.


The functions of volunteer coordinators  are to gather the participants, to arrange a shuttle and to manage the time frame of the outing. Trip coordinators expect  the paddlers that join their outing have the skills necessary to handle the difficulty rating of the river. It is quite possible that conditions such as high water or changing weather have altered the expectations of the trip.


The trip coordinator is not responsible for judging the competency of participant’s boating skills or equipment. However, the coordinator may open a dialogue to determine the participant’s comfort level on the trip. Together they examine the paddler’s qualifications and come to a mutual decision about participation. No assurance is given that the mutual decisions are accurate.


The participant is responsible for his or her own safety.


Trip Coordinator Presentation

Charlie Duffy's Trip Coordinator Presentation has a wealth of information for paddlers who are new to trip leading and would like to coordinate a CCA trip.  We use it to familiarize new trip coordinators with running a safe river trip.


Difficulty Ratings

Rivers suitable for novices are designated N for beginning level and PN for practiced notice. Intermediate rivers are sub-categorized as low LI, Intermediate I and high HI.  Advanced is A, and expert is E. These ratings may change entire grades depending on water levels, water temperature, season and remoteness.


Novice - A beginning paddler who is proficient in flat water, knows basic strokes and can maneuver the boat in Class 1-2 moving water.


Practiced Novice - Same skills as novice but more experienced in adjusting to unexpected changes in water level and weather conditions.


Low intermediate -  New to whitewater. Expected to be challenged and perhaps even spill in intermediate whitewater.


Intermediate - Experienced paddlers who are comfortable in the water as well as on it, are proficient in class 2-3 whitewater, know eddy turns, ferries and can help in rescues. A decked boater who has learned to roll in current or who can swim out and self-rescue (if needed) with confidence. Most intermediate paddlers have had at least one skills class in whitewater and rescue skills.


High Intermediate - Same skills as intermediate but able to maintain these skills in changing weather and water conditions. Is confident in remote areas and has the proper gear and skills to handle cold conditions.


Advanced - A paddler who has been paddling several years is able to maneuver in all types of rapids, including technical or heavy water class 4-5. One who has a bomb-proof roll and can self-rescue in heavy water, but who rarely has to use these skills because of excellent boat control and judgment. Good at performing rescues in difficult water.


Expert - The ultimate level of skill, knowledge and judgment. This level is acquired by years of paddling highly challenging and diverse rivers. Makes class 4 look easy, rarely makes mistakes in class 5 and above. Can tell the difference between impossible runs and those which are merely extremely difficult


River Rankings

The Monocacy Canoe Club, has a list of the relative difficulty of rivers in our area. If you are interested in a trip on a river you are not familiar with, review the River Rankings List to see how it compares to rivers you know.   A 68-stream version is in the CCA Handbook.


Novice paddlers should review the American Whitewater Safety Code, for descriptions of river levels, river hazards, equipment requirements, and safety procedures.

If you paddle the more difficult rivers you should take a River Safety and Rescue class and a Wilderness First Aid class.

If you have questions about CCA trips, contact