Whitewater Voyages River Rafting Training & Skills

With over 30 years of rafting experience, Bill McGinnis has authored numerous books and articles on the subject of running rivers. Bill shares some of his insight into river running through the following series of articles:
  1. Leadership Skills: Creating Deep Fun
  2. Leadership Skills: The Inner Question
  3. Rafting Technique: Punching Holes
  4. Rafting Skills: Eddy is Your Friend
  5. Rafting Skills: Coping with Flips
  6. Rafting Skills: High Water Safety
  7. Guiding Skills: River Games
  8. Guiding Skills: Games for River Trips
The Guide's Guide Augmented

Guiding Skills: Games for River Trips

by William McGinnis

February 16, 2006

Games can greatly add to the fun and camaraderie of river trips! This is part two of a two part series covering games that can inspire, educate, and entertain on river trips.

Two Truths and A Lie: With the group in a circle on land or in a boat, each person in turn says three things about him- or herself, one of which is a lie. Everyone guesses which of the three statements is the lie, then the speaker reveals the lie. A great ice breaker for any trip.

GamesPoints of Contact: In groups of five, how few points of contact can each group make with the ground? Try six, then five, four, and so on.

Hunker Hawser: Each person begins by holding a rope end while standing in or on their balance zone, which could be a low tree round, carpet square, plywood square, or a 12- to 18-inch circle defined by a loop of webbing laying on the ground. To win, a player must get the entire rope or cause their opponent(s) to step off their perch and touch the ground. Can be played simultaneously by 2, 3 or 4 players.

Name Game Augmented: It has been said that a group feels large only until everyone learns everyone else's name, and then the group feels much closer and somehow perfect. With the group in a well-formed circle in which everyone can see everyone else's face, go around the circle and have each person say their name plus make some sort of gesture while saying some additional word or phrase which rhymes or alliterates or somehow connects with them or their name. Anything and everything is welcome! The additional word or words can be purely descriptive, name something they might have brought with them on their trip, etc. Some examples: Diamond Dave (said while framing a diamond shape with forefingers and thumbs), Sue brought a SOTAR (said while moving a flat, open hand up and down like a boat going through waves), Ed brought an Elephant (said while swinging an arm as though it were an elephant's trunk), Hilary brought a Hungry Hippo, Frank the Crank, Miriam Divorce'em (said with an ever so slight toss of the head), and Barnacle Bill the Buccaneer (said with a hand over one eye like an eye patch and a guttural pirate's oath something like Aaaarrrrrrrggghhh). To heighten the fun and create repetition so people will remember the names, each person first repeats back all of the previously announced names, epithets and gestures starting with the leader. The leader begins and ends the game, finishing with a complete circuit around the circle repeating all names, epithets and gestures, beginning and ending with her or himself. One way to ease the pressure a bit is to announce that it is the obligation of everyone to help their neighbors when they get stuck. This game can make a large group feel intimate and comfortable fast.

Flipped Raft: Everyone first stands on a tarp on the ground, imagining it to be a flipped raft. The group then turns the flipped raft over without touching the surrounding ground. Everyone must be in contact with the tarp at all times.

Nature Diagram: A truly great game that can be played in any outdoor setting by people of any age, nature diagram greatly heightens people's awareness of the natural world. Beforehand, gather a dozen or so items such as leaves, stones, twigs and flowers from the immediate area and arrange them in some sort of diagram or pattern about six inches by six inches. It is important that all of the items be fairly common within, say, a 100 foot radius of the diagram. The diagram is then covered by a shirt or handkerchief. Then divide the group into teams of 3 to 5 people each and gather the teams close around the concealed diagram. Explain that the diagram will be uncovered for just 20 seconds, and then will be hidden again under the cloth. Also explain that all of the items in the diagram can be found within a 100 foot radius, and that each team will have a total of 5 minutes (with a 3-minute and a 4-minute whistle blast warning) to gather as many of the diagram items as possible and to arrange them into a similar diagram near the original. After making these announcements, give the teams a minute to plan strategies before unveiling the diagram for 20 seconds and sending them off to build their own. The team whose diagram most closely matches the original, which is uncovered at the end for comparison, wins.

Sunrise Roulette: Solidly embed the blade of a paddle in the ground about a foot deep with the shaft vertical in a place that will catch the direct rays of the rising sun. In the evening sometime after sunset, each person predicts where the sun will come up the next morning by making their mark or placing their token where they think the paddle's shadow will fall at the moment of sunrise. A similar game can be played by guessing the high water line each night.


The above is an excerpt from Bill's new book The Guide's Guide Augmented. The definitive how-to book on professional guiding, The Guide's Guide Augmented has a wealth of additional games — as well as the latest scoop on safety, rescue, entertainment, guide training and much more. To learn more about Bill's books, river trips, and 2-, 5-, & 7-day guide schools, visit WhitewaterVoyages.com or call 800-400-RAFT.

" I had my first experience rafting this weekend on the Yuba with a big group of friends. I was a little apprehensive but or fearless leader... Roland was awesome. His confidence, experience and great personality led to a wonderful experience. Thanks Roland, Glen and Wendy for a great trip. Have a great summer... I will try to learn my right from left. "
- Michele Wilcox
Salinas, California

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