Yukon Whitewater

Leadership and Guide Training Course
(12  & 24 days)

Canada’s Yukon Territory contains some of the wildest rivers and remote backcountry areas on the continent that have lured adventurers for years. From huge, braided glacial drainages to tight gorges and plunging waterfalls, the rivers of the Yukon offer varied features, perfect for learning and polishing skills. Backpackers explore Kluane National Park, designated by the United Nations as a world heritage site and part of the largest protected wilderness in the world.

During the backpacking portion of your course you will have the opportunity to lead the group up and over steep alpine passes, organize a bear hang and work together as a team to safely cross glacial creeks. The challenging Donjek route, the wild Cottonwood Trail and the Nadahini mountains are a few of the unique hiking locations that you may explore during a backpacking segment in the Yukon.

The rivers of the Yukon Territory provide the perfect classroom for students interested in gaining whitewater experience, as well as for veteran boaters who want to hone their skills on challenging expeditions. You’ll learn how to ferry across the current as a captain of a paddle raft, safely extricate a pinned boat, and the best way to rig a raft for an extended river expedition.

IWLS Yukon Backpacking & Whitewater includes Swiftwater Rescue and Raft Guide courses and certifications. Depending on the season, snowmelt, and conditions, IWLS chooses a river that provides the highest quality experience. Whether set on the famous Tatshenshini, the Tutshi and its steep Class IV drops, the remote wilderness of the McNeil, the challenging canyon of the Primrose, or the Hess River, your IWLS whitewater experience will provide you with professional raft guiding skills and the adventure of a lifetime.

COURSE LOCATION Taught in the Yukon Territory, this course starts on the Tatshenshini River, a Class III run, where you’ll get raft guiding and swift water rescue certifications. Dressed in dry suits, you’ll learn how to swim through rapids, paddle captain a raft and use safety equipment for extracting rafts and people from hazards. Then you’ll put these skills to use, descending any number of rivers in the Yukon, including the Hess River and the Primrose River. IWLS’ students safely completed the first organized group descent of the Primrose in 2007. These premier wilderness rivers make this course a substantial expedition into some of the wildest country complete with abundant wildlife and class IV rapids.

The backpacking portion of the course visits the myriad terrains of the boreal forests and alpine country of Yukon’s interior. Students will learn how to safely travel and camp in bear country and how to have no adverse impact on this wild terrain. Navigation, risk management and backcountry skills will be used while traveling across rocky alpine terrain, hiking up glaciated river drainages and selecting camp sites alongside lakes, rivers and ridges.

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 your 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.
  • Expedition Behavior and Group Dynamics: Because this course is a true wilderness expedition, interactions between group members need to be supportive and contribute to the efficacy of the group. The daily dynamics of the group, combined with instruction, will teach participants not only how to be a member of a team, but how to influence and lead an expedition.
  • 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.
  • Travel Techniques: Course instruction will help you discover ways to safely maximize your efficiency, whether hiking down a well-beaten path or traversing an exposed ridge.

-Nathaniel Stephens

IWLS RIVER SKILLS CURRICULUM prepares students for exploration into remote, backcountry settings. Here are some points we’ll cover on your course:

  • Swiftwater Rescue: You’ll learn the skills necessary to descend a river safely and how to correct things if problems occur. From learning how to pluck swimmers from rapids to righting flipped rafts, this comprehensive course sets the standard for river rescue.
  • 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 12 & 24-day courses, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

  Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Level 1

  •   Rescue III International or American Canoe Association


12 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School


  24 Day Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School


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