The key to creating a great RiverWatch science adventure is our 15-passenger inflatable rafts. You can think of them as large rubber busses or fully equipped floating laboratories!
Alberta RiverWatch uses inflatable rafts that are approximately 7 m long, 3 m wide and 1 m high. Each of these professional quality rafts can comfortably seat up to fifteen passengers.
RiverWatch rafts are used to transport science students from study site to study site along a ten-kilometer section of their local river. There is a qualified and experienced guide in each raft to assist students with paddling and water quality monitoring.
Tens-of-thousands of students have participated in the RiverWatch Science Program since it started in 1995. The safety and comfort of students is always of utmost priority. A combination of policy, equipment, procedures and training have kept the program accident free:
- A detailed pre-trip newsletter goes home to parents describing "who, what, where, when and how".
- Students are granted permission to participate on the basis of informed consent. Students under the age of 18 years are not required to sign a liability waiver.
- Large professional-sized rafts are used instead of canoes for a safer and more stable platform from which to view the river.
- Personal floatation devices (PFDs) are worn at all times on or near the water.
- Students receive a pre-trip safety talk on how to prevent accidents and handle emergencies.
- The need for chemistry lab safety is just as necessary on the river as it is in schools. Students use eye goggles, garbage containers and liquid waste collection bottles.
- RiverWatch is able to provide each student with rubber boots and a raincoat for use in cool or wet weather.
- River guides have Standard First Aid certification or better. Guides may also have Wilderness First Aid, National Lifeguard Society, Canadian Ski Patrol, Swift Water Rescue or Emergency Medical Responder training.
- All river guides have extensive experience with paddling canoes, kayaks or rafts and receive pre-season raft training. In addition, guides may have Alberta Recreational Canoe Instructor or YMCA Canoeing training.
- River guides carry a first aid kit, rescue rope and a cell phone with two-way radio capabilities.
- Alberta RiverWatch operates within or near towns with quick access to Emergency Medical Services 911.