ACA Swiftwater Rescue Experience

2 06 2017

live bait

If I had to identify with just one sport, it would be cycling. I’m an instructor for Bike Safety Education and Mountain Bike Adventure summer camps through the River House Outdoor Center. I raced extensively for seven years, two at the national level, and worked at bike shops for several years.  I have taught numerous bike skills clinics. When it comes to biking, I know my stuff.

That is not the case with river sports. While I have enjoyed some time rafting, canoeing, SUP’ing, or just hanging out and playing in the water, I’m a total beginner at all river and paddle sports. The truth is, the river scares me a little. I have never been very sure of what’s going on under that blue shimmer and white splashes, so I have remained hesitant to get completely obsessed with any river sport. I tried learning to kayak years ago, and just couldn’t get the roll down, so I gave up.

This will be my first summer working for the River House, and I plan to utilize all the opportunities available to me to expand my knowledge and add to my skills. Oregon offers so many awesome rivers, full fun activity and adventure, so I set for myself the goal to learn more skills and become proficient in a variety of river activities. A big first step was taking a Swiftwater Rescue certification class through American Canoe Association (ACA). I had to miss a few great mountain bike rides, but dedicating my weekend to personal growth and education was absolutely worth it!

Our instructor, Marciel Bieg, also a River House employee, started by laying the groundwork and philosophy—our priorities when doing a rescue. Number one, don’t become another victim! Just a few hours in the classroom covered all the basics. Then we learned to use throw ropes on dry land. By afternoon we were practicing rescue techniques in a rapid near the Autzen Footbridge.

On day two we learned a variety of anchor systems and mechanical advantage systems. My knowledge of rock climbing anchors really helped here, but even those with little experience learned to create safe anchors from a variety of materials. Then we piled on a bus and took to Row River to practice our skills.

We floated down a small rapid, practiced throw ropes and live bait rescue techniques. One of my favorite parts was trying to wade across the swift-moving river. It was a huge challenge, and I found myself floating downstream, never making it to the other side. We crossed with partners, and even rescued a “victim” as a group.

This experience helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence in the river. I am now able to advance my skills and knowledge of rafting and SUP’ing, knowing that I can handle whatever situation arises and help keep myself and the people around me safe.

This course is not just for professional guides. Literally ANYONE spending time in and around the river—it’s Eugene, so that’s pretty much everyone—would benefit from taking a Swiftwater Rescue course, or some kind of river safety education material our course.

I’m looking forward to an awesome summer full of mountain biking and river adventures!

-Misha Fuller

(The River House Instructor Development Fund makes money available for staff to use to better their skills through classes and training. In return the River House receives highly skilled staff and blog posts describing their experiences.)


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Swift Water Rescue Training

28 02 2017

swiftWith all the luck of the sky and the mountains, the storms have returned gifting us all with an abundance of sleet, snow pack, and rain drops.  The essence of life.  Thanks to an intricate and unexplainable series of fortunate events, I find myself granted the opportunity to travel into the heart of the forest and mountains; to travel into the river itself.  What’s more is the unexplainable magic of the opportunity to take part in the re-creation of the experience and adventure within the lives of others, from all walks of life, by means of a sea worthy whitewater raft.  Though simple in concept, these adventures and undertakings of which hold the power to shape shift lives and worlds, are also undeniably counterbalanced by the weight of risk.

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River run, wisely

27 10 2016

Be prepared, be realistic when rafting, paddling waterways, local guide advises

June 18, 2016

There are plenty of reasons why thousands of people are lured to water every summer.

It could be the sound of water flowing over rocks, the cool breeze that comes off the surface, the refreshing feel on a hot day or the wildlife such an outing attracts.

Whatever the reason, city of Eugene recreation programmer Aimee Goglia and her team of rafting guides know to expect it every year. That’s why they offer so many rafting opportunities — through city summer camps, school field trips and groups such as Nearby Nature and McKenzie River Trust.

Run out of the River House Outdoor Program on N. Adams Street in Eugene, the rafting program also coordinates trips with all the community centers. The River House program does not compete with private outfitters — groups wanting a tour guide and a raft trip are encouraged to call private rafting outfitters.

The rafting season can start as early as April and run through September. At the height of summer, Goglia and her staff of 20 guides are coordinating about five trips a week.

This summer, a rafting camp through the Wayne Morse Family Farm runs July 11 through July 15. Youths ages 6 to 8 will float the Willamette and older kids will float the McKenzie. Another camp based at the Sheldon Community Center will take kids ages 6 to 11 on the Mc-Kenzie River the week of August 1.

Program staff floats the Willamette and Mc-Kenzie rivers often enough to really know the rivers, appreciate their beauty and understand the inherent dangers. They are experts at teaching people the basics of floating these local waterways.

river run, wisely

Inflatable rafts dot the Willamette River west of the put-in spot at Aspen and D streets in Springfield. River guide Aimee Goglia led the outing for elementary-age students from Eugene and taught them water safety. (Collin Andrew/The Register-Guard)



Staying safe

Goglia says one of the most important safety tips is to pick an appropriate river for your skill level and to never go alone.

“People should know the river and the runs and be aware of their skill level in relationship to the river,” she says. “People should ask questions about the hazards in the river.”

A common, and potentially deadly hazard, is a “strainer” — a piece of debris in the river that allows water to flow through but would trap a person. A downed log or a shopping cart could be a strainer.

If a person fell out of their raft, she should swim aggressively away from hazards such as strainers and only stand up when moving water is calf-deep or shallower. A swimmer also should swim toward the boat closest to him.

Because falling out of a boat is always a possibility, Goglia recommends always wearing a properly-fitted life jacket.

She said she sees a lot of people overuse ropes and lines in their boats and loose lines can cause people to get entangled in them.

“More ropes in the water causes more chaos,” she says. “People can get tangled on them.”

Above all, Goglia tells boaters to “remain calm.” She says panicking will only lead to bad decisions.

Enviro ethic

Safety extends beyond humans. Goglia wants boaters to follow the leave-no-trace environmental ethic to protect wildlife and the environment as well.

“We are passing through critters’ homes,” she says. “People should pack everything out that they brought and take only pictures on their trip.”

Feeding the animals only hurts them in the end — people food is unhealthy for wildlife, helps them lose their natural fear of people and can cause them to conflict with people.

Goglia also hopes boaters take a look at the shoreline before stopping. In some cases, killdeer or Canada geese are nesting and the presence of people could disrupt the nest.

Another common activity to avoid on the shoreline: urinating — it’s no joke.

On the Willamette and McKenzie rivers, the volume of water is so large that peeing in the river is preferable to on the shore. “It has more of an impact if people pee on shore,” she says.

Where to go

Goglia has an array of great float trips on the tip of her tongue, and she encourages people to call the River House for help when planning a trip.

For beginners looking for local, short day trips with Class I or II river stretches (that is, an easy, calm section with occasional rapids that are easy to maneuver around), Goglia recommends these:

Up the McKenzie River, put in at Helfrich and take out at Leaburg Dam or at the EWEB boat landing.

Also on the Mc-Kenzie, put in at Armitage County Park and take out on the Willamette River at Marshall Landing on the left, southeast of Junction City. There is also a river right take-out outside Coburg at Cross Roads Lane, the road where Agrarian Ales is located.

On the Willamette River, put in at Island Park in Springfield and take out at River House in Eugene (which does not have a boat ramp) or across the river at Valley River Center. For a shorter run, take out at Alton Baker Park.

On the Middle Fork of the Willamette River, put in at Pengra Access Boat Ramp west of Dexter Lake and take out at Clearwater Park in Springfield.

On the Willamette, put in at Aspen Street/Alton Baker Park and take out at Whitley Landing County Park, in north Eugene.

Dancing on the river

Many of Goglia’s raft guides are younger people who have done raft trips through the city’s summer camp program or through their local elementary school. Goglia loves to see kids connect with the water in the same way she has.

“I love rowing,” Goglia says. “There is a beautiful flow. It is such a dance on the river. When done right, you are finessing rather than muscling your way through a rapid.”

More Out and About articles »

Plan a trip

Following are a few resources to help plan a river outing:

McKenzie River Guides: A comprehensive listing of river guides and outfitters for the McKenzie River;

Oregon Paddle Sports: 520 Commercial St., offers classes and rentals for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and rafting. Also connects with rafting guides;

River House Outdoor Program: 301 N. Adams St. For information about river and float trips, call 541-682-5329; Also, Aimee Goglia leads private whitewater rowing lessons at $40 for a minimum of three hours. Call 541-682-6358 for an appointment or email

The University of Oregon Outdoor Program: 1225 E. 18th Ave. Rental equipment available for members and nonmembers. Summer hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday;

The Willamette Water Trail Guide: This is an excellent resource for planning a river trip, Goglia says, including equipment must-haves;

Life Jackets

Sponsored by the Lane County Sheriff’s Office and the Eugene Emerald Valley Rotary Club, the sixth annual Life Jacket Exchange Event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, at the Springfield Cabela’s, 2800 Gateway St. Here’s how it works: Bring outgrown or unused life jackets to Cabela’s and exchange it for a properly fitted child’s life jacket. Experts on hand will check for proper fit. Call 541-682-4179 for information.

Full article can be found at:

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From River to the Desert, the River Guide Spirit Lives On

16 12 2015

Over twenty years ago I started guiding rivers in California.  I was lucky enough to be hired with a small company, named Ahwahnee Whitewater, and guided with some of the most competent guides in the west.  Throughout the spring and summer, for over a decade, we ran some of the most beautiful California rivers, the Tuolumne, Merced and even the Stanislaus.  These are the type of bonds and friendships that persist through time.  And though it is has been nearly a decade since I’ve guided with that crew in California, those times are unforgettable and have informed my life journey.  Many of us have moved away from that small town where our rafting company was based, but have kept in touch and moved on to some cool places throughout the west.  I recently reconnected with a couple of river guide friends and visited them down in Joshua Tree, at their off season home.    Having spent little time in the area, I was excited explore and explore I did with the help of Carl, my desert guide, in his modified for the desert rig.

In short, I saw the sun rise and set in the expanse of the desert, explored the Mojave and granite mountains rising out of the sand, I howled with the coyotes, road dirt bikes, had a sound bath at the Integratron, visited the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain, and cleaned off all the days of accumulated dust at the Desert Hot Springs.

Here are some photos from my adventures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is a little bit lawless in these parts, perfect for the river guide spirit.

Written by: Aimee Goglia, River House Programmer

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Floating into Fall on the Rogue

26 09 2012

I just finished the summer season and transitioned into fall while floating down the Rogue River for five days. Though it has been several years since I have been a full-time commercial river guide, every summer I do at least one commercial raft trip on the Rogue with my best friend, Kate.  A couple summers ago I did my annual trip with Kate.  On this trip, the company hired a videographer to accompany us, document the Rogue and create a promotional video.   Check it out this fun video and get inspired to do your own trip next season.

The Rogue River is one of Oregon’s wilderness gems.  Whether you do a private or a commercial raft trip, or even hike the trail, spending time on the Rogue River is magical.  If you are interested in planning you own trip going with a commercial outfitter, feel free to contact me at the River House, I consider myself the resident expert on the Rogue as well as other local rivers.

Check out the BLM website for permit details and deadlines.

Written by Aimee Goglia, Recreation Programmer at the River House Outdoor Program

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2012 City of Eugene’s Outdoor Program’s River Guide School

4 05 2012

The River House is currently conducting its bi-annual River Guide School led and taught by Aimee Goglia and Colette Ramirez-Maddock along with on the river training with Jack Hart and Omar Nelson. Today they are on the McKenzie River with 12 total temp staff representing four different community centers (River House, Sheldon, Petersen Barn and Amazon Community Center). All guide school participants will be learning and practicing both paddle guiding and rowing techniques. Once they have completed guide school, Aimee and Colette will meet with each student and outline their individualized plan to officially become a guide. On a rare occasion, new guides will leave guide school “checked-out” and are able to sign up for work the following week. So, this year you might see one, two or three new guides taking you down one of our wonderful rivers.

Wanna learn be a river rafting guide? This is one days training with River Recreation’s river rafting guide training class doing flip drills.

2011 Last weekend of Raft Guide Training with Peak 7 Adventures:

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The 5 Knots Everyone Should Know

5 03 2012

I love knots, I tie them for practicality and I practice tying them for fun!  Whenever I travel I take a small section of rope because I know practicing knots will be a great way to pass the time.  In my trainings I prefer to see clean (dressed) knots, and often will ask people to retie a knot if a section is out of place.  After all, “a knot not neat is a knot that need not be knotted.”

So here it goes…  In my opinion the top 5 knots that everyone should know are:

#1 The Half Hitch.

-Simple knot, many uses.  Two half hitches will hold dang near anything as long as there is consistent tension.

-It will probably not get you any style points, however there is no reason why people should not know this knot.

#2 The Figure 8 (and its multiple variations.)  This is a great knot that is touted in the climbing community as one of the strongest knots that retain a high percentage of a rope’s breaking strength

-Here I just tied a Figure 8 on a Bight. (and safely clipped it to my coffee mug!) You may ask, “How do you tie that knot directly onto the coffee mug?”

-Glad you asked, you simply tie a Figure 8 Follow Though.  Same knot, tied differently will include the handle of the mug.

-Make your first Figure 8 by taking a bight of rope. (huh, that looks like a head. Did you hear what he just told me?)

-Next, I choke em,

-and poke em in the eye.

-(I am really a non-violent person!)

-Pull that working end out and then we we are ready to tie in the mug.

-The reason this is called the Figure 8 Follow Through is because after you include the mug, the next step is to follow the 8 pattern already mapped out.  The way I learned is very similar to others, and that is to “follow the race track!”  Meaning you follow the path of the rope exactly.

-Remember to dress the knot at the end, so that the ropes are parallel and not crossed.

-One of the bummers to the Figure 8 is that when it is loaded with a heavy weight or experiences a great amount of tension, the knot can meld together making it impossible to untie.  In those cases, only a good pair of safety sheers (or yes a knife!) will be able to undo this powerhouse of a knot.

#3 The Bowline One of my favorite and most practical knots.  This is a great knot that I use for multiple purposes when I want to tie the end of a rope to a fixed point.  Practiced enough, it is quick, easy and strong, with a bit more standing power than the Double Half Hitches mentioned above.

-Start by making a loop with the working end on top of the remaining rope.

-Then for fun’s sake, after you have run the working end through what you are securing, lets tell a story about a rabbit!!!

-The rabbit comes out of the hole,

-runs under a root,

-and then jumps back into the hole.

-Tighten it up and you have a secured bowline!

#4 is the slightly harder, and the more impressive Bowline on a Bight!  This knot is surprisingly strong and after taking a massive amount of tension, it will still easily untie. (For when you have to pull that car out of the mud/snow and still want your rope back!)

-Start by taking a bight of rope and then making a half hitch (or overhand knot).

-Then make it look like Mick Jagger by holding it so that the bight looks like a tongue resting on a bottom lip.  (What? You don’t know who Mick Jagger is?  Fine.  So it looks like Michael Jordan…  WHAT?!!! You’ve never seen… FINE!!, so it looks like ME after listening to Justin Bieber.)

-Next put your pincher fingers through the bight, going from underneath.

-And pinch the rope that is making the top lip.

-Next, without letting go of the top lip, flip the tongue over everything.

-This next part is a little difficult; you want to hold the middle of the knot loosely, while pulling the loops of the top lip in order to make the tongue up to meet the rest of the knot.

-Great knot!!  Test it by holding both the working end and the live end of the rope and the knot (not the loops.) and pulling them apart.  If your loop disappears you tied a slip knot (Bummer), if it hold, you have the beautiful Bowline on a Bight (Bomber!)

#5 The Butterfly Knot (more specifically an Alpine Butterfly)

This knot can be tied anywhere in the middle of a rope to provide a secure loop that can be pulled from both directions and will not come untied. There are many ways to tie this knot, here is one.

-Wrap a rope loosely around your hand so that you are holding 3 strands in your palm.  (I know, this is the only time I would tell you to wrap a rope around any part of your body.)

-Now you are going to move the strand closest to your fingers over the other two ropes and place it by your thumb.

-Repeat!  Take the strand now closest to your fingers and place it by your thumb.

-Now the strand that you just moved by your thumb should go under the two ropes to make your bight,

-Pull the bight out a little

-take out your hand and then pull the two ends of your rope apart to finish the knot.

These are the 5 knots I think everyone should know!  If you would like more practice, or want to learn some additional knots, visit one of my favorite sites,

It is an informative site, with much better pictures and a great resource.  (Yes, their pictures are better than mine. Can you believe it?)  If you want to talk knots with me, stop by the River House, I am sure I have some extra practice rope knotted up around here somewhere.

“It’s better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it!”

-Robert Brack


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