Pacific Northwest Backpacking & Whitewater

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(24 days)

After six days of Swiftwater Rescue Technician and Raft Guide training, students embark on an Owyhee River expedition. -Bob Daffe

The mighty Owyhee River flows from its source in northeastern Nevada, winding its way north through Idaho and Oregon before it joins the Snake River. On this IWLS course you’ll receive six days of Swiftwater Rescue Technician and Raft Guide training, then test your newly polished skills on an Owyhee River expedition. Designated by Congress as a National Wild and Scenic River, the Owyhee is on every serious boater’s life list. You’ll understand why as you watch your first sunset light up the banded sandstone cliffs surrounding your riverbank camp.

Challenge yourself in wild Class IV rapids in an inflatable kayak, hunt for 9,000 year old petroglyphs, and maybe even soak in a natural hot spring. You’ll finish the course by exploring this striking high desert wilderness on foot, developing your leadership skills as part of a backpacking group. In all, a phenomenal setting for gaining the skills needed to lead an expedition river or backpacking trip.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

The IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Leadership: Opportunities to lead the group will be abundant and you’ll have the time to learn and practice multiple styles of leadership.
  • Weather: Will the storm arrive in the next 12 hours, or the next 48? Understanding weather patterns and trends will help you plan successful trips in a wilderness setting.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Environmental Ethics: As adventurers in some of the most pristine environments on the planet it is our duty to respect the natural world. All of our courses practice and teach Leave No Trace ® principles.

IWLS BACKPACKING CURRICULUM prepares students for exploration into remote, backcountry settings.

  • Tents: Staying dry in the wilderness is an essential survival skill. You’ll learn how to repair a damaged tent, how to set up camp in high winds, and techniques to secure your dry space for the night.
  • Stoves and Campfires: The ability to repair a broken stove, make an emergency fire after being submerged in an icy river, and melt snow efficiently for water are key components for leading a group in the wilderness.
  • River and Stream Crossings: In river crossings, attention to detail and safety are #1. You’ll learn and practice safe techniques for wading across a small stream or doing a Tyrolean traverse across a raging river.
  • Geology: From plate tectonics to granitic batholiths, you’ll learn the history of the land you are exploring and how these forces create and influence the environment around you.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL No previous experience is necessary for this course. However, with a desire to learn and an enthusiasm for adventure, you’ll develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of wilderness exploration.

CERTIFICATIONS Upon completion of the 80-day course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Level 1
Rescue III International


Swift Water Rescue Technician
International Wilderness Leadership School


24 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School


*Dependent on weather and season

DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.