The Anatomy of a River
A river is a dynamic and powerful environment. Our goal is to safely navigate this environment in the pursuit of adventures and fun.
The first thing we need to understand as paddlers is that the river is stronger than us. So we need to use our knowledge and skills to harness the power of the river so that we can work with it to achieve our goals. There are numerous components that form a river, our playground. We will look at these in turn in this chapter. There are also a few basic names and terms that we all need to know.
Downstream is the direction that the water in the river is flowing.
Upstream is the direction that the water is coming from.
River left is the left side of the river as you are looking downstream.
River right is the right side of the river as you look downstream.
We always use river left and river right when we are on the river so that we do not get the sides of the river confused.
Think of a river as a liquid conveyor belt that has multiple layers. All of the layers move in the same general direction, but they can move at different speeds. Our conveyor belt is not flat or all flowing in the same direction all of the time. There are places where it will drop off, rise up, and in a select few places it can even move back up stream. All of these variations are created by the different features in the river.
By taking the time to learn and understand how a river works you can really maximise on your experiences out on the water. Learning how to work with the river and utilise it’s many great assets and strengths to help you perform will make your life as a paddler much easier and a lot more fun.