Whitewater Academy Camp

Build leadership and technical skills on an iconic stretch of river!

Whitewater Academy, is an immersive 4 day, 3 night whitewater rafting trip for teens wanting to learn leadership and whitewater skills. Teens spend four days learning to paddle captain and row an oar boat through Ruby/Horsethief and Westwater Canyons, some of the country’s most thrilling whitewater. CFI’s instructors will coach students to navigate rivers and learn the basics of swift water rescue. The curriculum includes hands-on instruction in leadership, naturalist skills, risk management, and decision making.

Participants develop leadership skills when they support each other, manage their personal protective equipment, or cook a filing meal for their team. The camp also focuses on minimum impact techniques, ethics for river travel, and ecology of the desert region. Teens will have the opportunity to connect to each other and experience the fun of an overnight river trip while developing professional and marketable skills.

No previous whitewater rafting experience is necessary!


  • Whitewater rafting
  • Camp cooking
  • Basic first aid and rescue techniques
  • Teambuilding
  • Technical skills education
  • Games and free time


  • Advanced leadership and group management skills
  • Confidence building
  • Resume and marketable skills building
  • Increased self-management skills
  • Positive growth in teamwork and communication
  • Heightened risk management and safety awareness
The Colorado River; Ruby Horsethief and Westwater Canyon. From Loma, CO to Cisco, UT.
July 28, 2023 through July 31, 2023
Drop Off/Pick Up:
8:30 am on day 1 and 4:30pm on day 4
4 days and 3 nights
Age Range:
Rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders or ages 15 - 17
$595, and $455 for Grand or San Juan County residents

This is how we rate the challenges you might face on a CFI trip.

Level 1 - Easy

  • Low level of physical activity, minimal movement required
  • 0 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking or walking 0-2 miles per day

Level 2 - Moderate

  • Medium level of physical activity, some movement required
  • 1-4 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 4 miles per day
  • Flatwater or mild whitewater rapids

Level 3 - Active

  • Medium or high level of physical activity
  • 1-5 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 5 miles per day
  • Class I - III whitewater rapids

Level 4 - Challenging

  • High level of physical activity
  • 1-6 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking 5 or more miles per day
  • Class IV whitewater rapids
CFI's Essential Eligibility Criteria outlines specific challenges that you may face on CFI trips. Please consult the EEC for information on responsibilities of participants.

See other trips in these categories:

Trip Narrative

Whitewater Academy is perfect for teens looking to meet peers, explore the river, and learn new skills!

Day 1

Drop-off on day 1 is at 8:30 at Canyonlands Field Institute in Moab, Utah. We will make sure your kid is outfitted with the things they need to spend time on the river, including dry bags and PFDs. Tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads can also be borrowed at no additional cost. We will launch on the river and spend some time learning the basics of river running. Campers will get to try their hand at navigating the current, reading water, and captaining a boat. We will find a spot to set up camp, and work as a team to unload the gear and cook dinner.

Days 2 & 3

These are our river days! Whitewater Academy campers will continue to develop their boating skill under the mentorship of CFI guides. We will also learn about river rescue techniques, including throw-bagging, knot tying, leadership and communication techniques, and basic first aid concepts. We will also boat through Westwater Canyon! This exciting stretch of river includes iconic class 3 and 4 rapids like Skull, Sock-it-to-me, and Funnel Falls. After the canyon run, we will set up camp for a celebratory final dinner. Evening activities may include campfires, stargazing, storytelling, night hiking, or other activities.

Day 4

We reach the takeout on day 4. Your Whitewater Academy camper will be excited to share about the week’s worth of adventures, new skills, new friends, and stories. This program is a great addition to a resume or college application, and participants can list their CFI guide/educator as a reference for job applications.


Some people say food is the most important part of the adventure. On all our overnight trips, CFI will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a morning and afternoon snack, and an appetizer before dinner. If you have a dietary restriction or food allergy, note it on your medical form so we can best prepare.

Depends on the trip. As a general rule, CFI provides all group gear related to fully outfitting your trip. Specialized gear like PFDs, wetsuits, dry bags, educational materials are all provided by CFI. Additionally, we take care of all kitchen and dishware needs. 

Find out more about trip specific packing.

Most importantly, a willingness to slow down, connect to your surroundings, and experience the moment. Additionally, participants are required to bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, personal clothing, medication, and other essential personal items. Many gear items are available for rent. Reach out to us if you are interested in seeing a trip specific packing list, or learn more about trip specific packing here.

CFI provides options to rent gear:

  • Two person tent: $30 / trip
  • Sleeping bag: $20 / trip
  • Kid sleeping pad: $7 / trip
  • Adult sleeping pad (paco pad): $15 / trip
  • Package deal: Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and one tent per two people: $40 / trip

For any CFI summer camp, gear rentals are free!

Every CFI guide has either a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Your trip leader will have a Wilderness First Responder certification. Anyone working with youth has passed a background check, and shuttle drivers are insured with clean driving records. Backcountry trips carry In-Reach satellite communication devices for emergencies. All guides have been evaluated by Canyonlands Field Institute as possessing the judgement, skills, and disposition required for mitigating risk in the field. 

As technology grows more and more invasive by the day, CFI promotes connection to what matters. To achieve this, all school and youth programs are unplugged and students are not permitted to bring electronic devices. Not only is there rarely cell service, devices are a distraction to our ability to connect to the present moment. On Private Group Trips or Adult Seminars, the use of devices is permitted but discouraged.

CFI works hard to ensure a positive experience for all guides and participants. Because of the unpredictable nature of outfitting, we have created a series of policies so maintain our ability to manage risk in the outdoors.

For critical information regarding cancellations, deposits, and other participant responsibilities, please view our trip policies page or contact us with any questions.

Thanks for asking...We know this can be an awkward subject. The fact is, our guides work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped! 

On school trips tips are greatly appreciated. 

On an adult or private trip, an industry standard is for each customer to tip $25 per day.

If you wish to include a gratuity, cash is preferred, but sending a check or a payment to CFI's Venmo: @canyonlandsfieldinstitute is also a great way to thank your guides for their hard work.  Tips are always pooled and distributed.

Need to Know

  • CFI staff are trained educators and guides with first aid and CPR certifications.
  • Back-country trips carry satellite communications devices.
  • All cook and dishware, meals, snacks, and river gear are provided by CFI.
  • Tents are provided and sleep kits (sleeping bag, sleeping pad) can be borrowed at no additional cost.
  • Your child could qualify for a scholarship. Check out our summer camp Scholarship Application.

CFI is a non-profit organization and fees are not taxed. By choosing CFI, you are supporting our efforts to provide lifechanging outdoor experiences for hundreds of children per year.  Scholarships are available on an as needed basis.