Whitewater Rafting Throw Rope Rescue Techniques

If you’re going Vail rafting with Timberline Tours, then you’ll have the chance to choose the adventure level that best suits your group. Whether you’re looking to spend a relaxing afternoon on a float trip with family and friends or get out on a heart-pumping rafting trip through challenging rapids, Timberline Tours has plenty of Vail whitewater rafting options to choose from.

When rafting through more aggressive rapids, it’s important to know the basics of whitewater rafting throw rope rescue techniques. In these sections of whitewater that have higher river class ratings, paddlers often scout more difficult sections with guides to preview rapids and river conditions. River class ratings vary in difficulty on a I to VI scale, ranging from Class I at the easiest end of the spectrum to Class VI, the most difficult. Timberline’s Pine Creek whitewater rafting trip on Colorado’s Arkansas River, for example, is rated Class IV and V- (advanced/expert, high intensity). And mighty Gore Canyon rafting on the Colorado River is rated Class IV and V (expert, very high intensity).

Rafting Throw Rope Rescue
Gore Canyon rafting involves knowledge of self-rescue and throw-rope rescue techniques.

Safety measures for these more intense stretches of river also often include having a person positioned on the shore with a throw rope in an area of increased difficulty. The role of this person is to toss the throw rope to a swimmer to assist in whitewater rescue by pulling the swimmer to the shore.

Whitewater rafting safety begins with the safety talk that your guide will give you before you set out on the river. Listen attentively to the safety talk for tips and advice on topics including rafting self-rescue techniques, paddling tips, and more. If anyone falls out of the raft, you will be instructed to call out “Swimmer!” to alert others and the guide to initiate a rescue.

If you are a swimmer, look to your guide for advice and direction. Be active in your own rescue, and enact whitewater rafting self-rescue techniques, including positioning yourself in the whitewater float position quickly, assessing your surroundings, and actively swimming toward safety.

Tips for Rafting Throw Rope Rescue

If you see a throw rope being tossed toward you, get ready to hang on. Grab the rope with both hands, pull it close to your chest, and then roll over onto your back. Position the rope so that it is stretching out over your shoulder. As the rope tightens, your body will turn in the water. Be prepared for the person who threw the rope from the shore to pull you in backwards as you remain in the whitewater float position.

Rafting Throw Rope Rescue

The whitewater float position is a defensive position in which a swimmer moves in the water to float on his or her back with arms outstretched, feet up, and feet facing downstream, making sure to keep face and toes out of the water. It’s important to remain on your back while being pulled in on a throw rope to avoid water rushing into your face.

Pay careful attention to avoid having the rope wrap around any part of your body, and do not wrap the rope around your hands. Instead, be sure to hold onto the rope tightly, but also be ready to drop the rope easily in case you need to let go of it quickly. Kick your feet as if swimming while on your back to help expedite your rescue.

Rafting 101: Learn More

Timberline Tours focuses on Rafting 101 and Vail rafting safety topics because we want all of our guests to have the best—and safest—Vail rafting experience possible. Find out more here:

How to Wear Life Jackets
Whitewater Rafting Safety
Common Paddling Commands
Vail Rafting Paddling Tips
River Rafting Class Ratings Explained
What to Wear Vail Rafting


Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

To book your Vail, Colorado adventure, call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414, or email us at info@timberlinetours.com.