The Wilmington Trail Club offers a wide array of kayaking and canoeing trips for paddlers of all skill levels and interests.  Trips range from local paddles of several hours in length to week-long excursions around the country.  Governance: All paddling activities — the training program, publicity, whitewater trips, recreational/touring trips, pool sessions, etc.– are coordinated by the WTC Paddling Board whose chairperson is a voting member of the WTC Council.  All persons participating in WTC kayaking/canoeing trips must have prior training (including a wet exit) or participate in a WTC instructional event.  The WTC paddlers offer low-cost training events for recreational/touring and whitewater kayaking each spring and summer and even have equipment to rent to new paddlers.

The Wilmington Trail Club is committed to conducting paddling trips in a safe manner and expects all paddlers to cooperate with this as the primary goal.  Activities on the water require attention to safety.  By participating in a trip, you accept all risks and release the Wilmington Trail Club from any liability.  WTC kayaking/canoeing trips are coordinated by Wilmington Trail Club member volunteers and are posted on the WTC website either on the trip calendar or paddling forums.  All paddlers are required to have the requisite gear, paddling experience, and must sign a WTC Waiver.  Parent or legal guardian must sign a Minor Waiver and Release of Liability Form for all paddlers 18 years or younger.  Unaccompanied minors must have prior permission from  the Trip Coordinator as well as the signed Minor Waiver to participate in a WTC paddling trip.

For safety’s sake, no WTC sanctioned trip can have fewer than three boats.  For both touring and whitewater paddling, trip coordinators must be members of WTC and have participated in three WTC trips prior to coordinating a trip.

Carpooling is optional; however, the WTC encourages the wise use of resources.  In addition, fewer cars at the put-in can often simplify the shuttle, and fewer cars can also minimize problems of limited parking at put-ins and take-outs.  Drivers are reimbursed for miles driven and a share of tolls per current WTC policy.  Trip participants and trip coordinators should exchange information to facilitate carpooling prior to the trip.  Trip participants are expected to arrive on time at the designated meeting spot on the day of the trip.  Paddlers must notify the Trip Coordinator if they must cancel or are running late for a trip.  They should exchange cell phone numbers with the Trip Coordinator at the time of signing up.

Flat water trips can be coordinated by a single person or a team.  The trip coordinator role is an outstanding opportunity for those new to the WTC to become actively involved in the club.


Review trip details with the WTC Touring Trip Coordinator for posting on the website trip calendar.

Be familiar with the river, lake, bay, or other body of water with regard to its difficulty and any hazards.

Be aware of water level, tidal schedule, ocean currents, and wind conditions as applicable to the venue; cancel or relocate trip if too risky.

Know the put-in and take-out.

Accept and track sign-ups.  Exchange cell phone numbers with all participants.  If this is a scouting trip, make those signing up aware.

Understand the skill level required of the potential participants, and screen out anyone deemed unqualified for the nature of the trip:

  • Consider the expected weather in assessing difficulty. Cold air and water temperatures increase the consequences of capsizing.
  • High winds, rough water, and strong currents also increase the likelihood of capsizing, and potentially increase the difficulty of rescue.
  • River trips will require experience in maneuvering in moving water.  If unsure of a potential participant’s skill level, the trip coordinator should consult with the Touring Training Coordinator or Touring Trip Coordinator for an assessment of the person’s ability to handle a particular river or open water venue.  If no one can attest to a person’s ability, err on the side of safety.
  • Communicate all trip details.

    Make sure each person signing up has the required equipment:  boat, paddle, flotation, PFD, and cold water/cold weather clothing.

    Remind participants to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, hat (where helmets are not required), insect repellent, lunch or snack in waterproof container, and possibly additional clothing in waterproof container, depending on weather conditions.

    Be sure that one or more members of the party have a first aid kit, and a rescue tow rope

    Helmets are strongly recommended for Class I moving water that is shallow and rocky; required for class II and above.

    For open water trips, ensure that participants have necessary equipment (paddle float, pump, stirrup, etc.), spray skirt, and knowledge of self rescue.

    Coordinate and expedite shuttle arrangements

    Collect fees if applicable.


    Ensure all paddlers sign the Waiver and Release of Liability Form and provide an emergency phone number.

    Take list of emergency numbers on the trip in waterproof bag.

    Set expectations for the day’s paddle:  distance, timing, hazards, conditions, other logistics.

    Ensure that all WTC basic safety rules are adhered to including, but not limited to:

  • Wearing an approved PFD at all times while on the water 
  •  Complying with all reasonable directions of the trip coordinator
  • Staying between the lead and sweep boats
  • Keeping a safe distance from the boat in front of you 
  • Knowing and respecting your limitations, and paddling accordingly.

    Assign lead and sweep boats with strong and responsible paddlers.

    Inform other paddlers to stay between the lead and sweep paddlers.

    Maintain a head count of paddlers at all times.

    Inform group before put-in of any known problems [rapids, dams, strainers, obstructions]

    Determine pace and lunch stop.


    At take-out, insure all paddlers are off the river and all have arrangements to get home

    Quickly check of the parking area for lost gear

    Optionally, take photos before, during and after the trip; post photos and notes about the trip on the WTC forum

    Send the Waiver and Release of Liability Form to the Flat Water Trip Coordinator


    Paddlers must sign up for trips in advance and follow any specific instructions given by the trip coordinator on the web site or trip calendar.

    Paddlers should have completed the WTC training program or demonstrate proficiency to the Trip Coordinator.

    Paddlers should be familiar with basic water rescue techniques and be comfortable in the water (know how to swim).

    Paddlers should understand their own skill and endurance level.  If you are uncertain, you should ascertain the possible difficulty of the trip (e.g. number of miles to be paddled) as well as any possible hazards and probable water/weather conditions. If you find conditions at the put-in more difficult than you are prepared for, you should drop out.


    Bring adequate gear.  Paddlers must wear a properly fitting Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times while on the water.  Paddlers should also have river shoes and adequate food & water for the day.  Recreational kayakers are advised to wear helmets in moving water that is shallow & rocky.   Spray skirts may be needed for some trips.  Other optional equipment includes a bilge pump, whistle, spare break apart paddle, dry bag, and sunscreen.  Flotation for boats without bulk heads is highly recommended.

    Hypothermia (loss of body heat) can be an issue, in the event of capsizing in open water, but also in the event of cold & rain.  A wet or dry suit in cold weather on open water trips is advisable.  It is advisable to carry rain gear / paddle jacket in the boat.  Hyperthermia can be an issue on hot sunny days so ensure that you bring adequate water for hydration.

    If you are not familiar with the paddling venue, inform your leader so that you are not left behind, especially where there are islands or various inlets where you might lose your way.  Let the leader or a fellow participant know if you are having difficulty keeping up with the pace of the group.

    Stay between the lead and sweep boats and keep a safe distance from the boat in front of you and comply with all reasonable directions of the trip coordinator.


    Ensure the trip coordinator knows you are off the river before departing.

    Assist with the shuttle if requested.

    Share photos and/or post your trip experience on the forum.

    The trip coordinator should be familiar with river logistics (put-in, take-out, shuttle route), but does not necessarily have to be highly familiar with the particular river section.


    Prior to planning any trip, the trip coordinator should ensure that he/she is familiar with the river OR that a participant who is familiar with the river and qualified to lead paddlers is designated as the trip leader.

    Ensure that the scheduled trip is posted to the WTC Trip Calendar (via the WW Trip Coordinator) with reminders posted on the Paddling forum.  If the trip is planned at the last minute, the trip should at minimum be posted on the WTC Paddling Forum.

    Maintain the sign up list and ensure that participants have the requisite skills and abilities to successfully complete the trip.

    Designate a trip leader, if the trip coordinator is not comfortable guiding paddlers through rapids.
    Post clearly understandable directions and meeting times and any other special instructions.

    Maintain a list of participants’ cell phone numbers and ensure that they have his/her cell phone number.

    Ensure that all paddlers have the requisite training and experience to safely navigate the river.  If less experienced paddlers will be participating, ensure that there are adequate experienced people to provide safety and support.  If there are questions about a paddler’s abilities, the trip coordinator should confer with an instructor, the safety coordinator, or paddling chair or co-chair.

    Check weather and river gauges.  If the weather is unsafe or the river is at a higher level than expected, the trip coordinator can cancel the trip, prohibit less experienced paddlers from joining the trip or can change the location of the trip at the last minute.

    Ensure that all trip members sign WTC waiver (including a Minor Waiver and Release of Liability Form signed by parent or guardian for those under 18), provide emergency phone numbers, and have the appropriate gear. All paddlers must have a paddle, helmet, properly fitting PFD, boat flotation, spray skirt and adequate food and water for the day.  The trip coordinator can also mandate dry suits and other cold water gear for cold-weather paddling.

    Ensure adequate safety gear is taken on the trip including, but not limited to a first aid kit, rescue throw bag, cell phone, list of emergency numbers.  For remote trips without easy road access, at least one spare break apart paddle should be carried.


    Coordinate the shuttle from the put-in to the take-out and back, or can choose to designate this task to another paddler.

    Designate lead and sweep paddlers.  If less experienced paddlers are on the trip, the trip coordinator should ask experienced paddlers to help lead them down the river, if requested.

    If a group is large, the coordinator may organize a split into 2 or 3 groups (minimum of 3 boats per group) ensuring that each group has its own leader and sweep.  Groups can also split off if there is a desire for some to paddle faster or slower, as long as adequate leaders are available a minimum group size is maintained.

    At the bottom of each major rapid, the trip coordinator should ensure that all trip participants are accounted for.


    Account for all participants.

    Ensure everyone has a ride back.
    Submit waivers and trip report to Whitewater Trip Coordinator either via hard copy, email or website.

    A trip leader can also be the trip coordinator.  A trip leader must have detailed knowledge of the river and its rapids and hazards and should be comfortable assisting other paddlers safely through rapids.


    Persons qualified to lead a trip should volunteer their experience and may encourage less experienced paddlers to coordinate a trip that they are willing to lead.

    Once designated, the trip leader should coordinate with trip coordinator and should assist with assessing the skills of the trip participants to ensure adequate safety.


    Before getting on the water, the trip leader should review safety practices and give any necessary specific instructions about conditions and river hazards

    The trip leader should assist with maintaining a head count of all paddlers throughout the trip.

    The trip leader should assist less experienced paddlers through each rapid as needed.


    The trip leader should help conduct a final head count to account for all paddlers.

    Whitewater paddling is a challenging and rewarding sport that requires skill and specialized equipment.  Training is available for aspiring whitewater kayakers each spring and experienced whitewater paddlers are often available for help down the river.  Most whitewater trips are run on rivers within a two hour drive of Wilmington, but many weekend trips are organized each year to Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.  Whitewater sports are inherently dangerous. Even mild whitewater has the potential to injure or kill. By participating in any trip, all paddlers accept the risks and release the Wilmington Trail Club from any liability.


    Paddlers must sign up for trips in advance, and follow any specific instructions given by the trip coordinator on the web site or trip calendar.

    Paddlers should understand and recognize their own skill level and participate in trips only if they have the requisite experience.  If there is a question about your skill level and the difficulty of the river, talk with the trip coordinator well in advance to determine if you can safely navigate the river or if there will be an adequate number of experienced paddlers to support you.


    Listen to the instructions of the trip coordinator and/or trip leader and defer to their expertise. Pay heed to any specific safety instructions or trip details.

    Stay between lead boat and sweep boat at all times.  Ask questions of experienced paddlers if you are unsure of the best way to run a rapid.

    Bring adequate gear.  All paddlers must have a paddle, helmet, properly fitting Personal Flotation Device (PFD), flotation, spray skirt, river shoes and adequate food and water for the day.  In addition, paddlers must have appropriate paddling clothing (synthetic fibers) and wet or dry suit for cold weather or water situations.

    Assist in rescues of other paddlers only when it is safe for you to do so.  Stay with the group in the event of a rescue.


    Do not disappear from the group immediately upon exiting the river.  Ensure that the trip coordinator knows you are safe and off the river before departing.

    Assist with return shuttle if requested.

    Share photos and/or post your trip experience on the forum.

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