Swift water

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Swift water canyons, also referred to in the United States as Class C canyons, require special canyoning techniques taught less frequently in the United States than other regions. This is likely because United States canyoneering started in the desert southwest with canyons that, although they can be wet (and require a wetsuit and dry bags), they rarely have strong water flow. Most of the true swift water canyons in the United States are located in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, but even in these regions, swift water canyoning techniques are not frequently taught because they are considered advanced. Thus, American canyoneers are seldom exposed to swift water techniques that their European canyoning colleagues use.

What is called "canyoneering" in the USA is called "canyoning" in Europe (and the rest of the world). "Canyoning" by default refers to swift water. Outside the USA, the term "dry canyoning" is used to refer to non-flowing Class A or Class B (ACA rating) canyons. The term "canyoneering" by default refers to dry canyons. In the USA doing canyons in swift water is referred to as "swiftwater canyoneering" or as "Class C canyoneering".


Specialized Class C canyoning courses are rarely offered in the USA, but whitewater rescue courses are offered every spring around whitewater rafting destinations (Kernville, Fresno and Sacramento). International courses may be a valid option for those that have plans to travel to Europe. A 5 to 8 day advanced swift water training in Spain, run by the Spanish Canyoning Federation and taught by volunteers, will cost around USD 200 - USD 400. The French and Italian Federations also offer similar courses. These are usually run in the spring in the Pyrenees and in the summer in the Alps. These courses might be offered in preparation or during some of the international canyoning events in those countries. In recent years Central and South American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, etc have also started offering beginner and intermediate Class C classes.


Canyoning reference texts that deal with swift water techniques are rare, but they exist—usually in French, Italian, or Spanish. Many canyoning guidebooks for the Pyrenees or the Alps also have a chapter dedicated to swift water techniques.

  • Canyoning Hydrology & Water Hazards : Extensive water hazard ebook published by Canyon Magazine https://canyonmag.net/technical/safety/hydrology/
  • Manuale Tecnico di Soccorso in Forra: Progressione e Soccorso in Canyon: also known as the SNAFOR Canyon Rescue Manual, is available only in Italian and is the premier reference for canyoning in the Alps. Written and published by Scuola Nazionale Tecnici Soccorso in Forra (SNAFOR) and Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico (CNSAS), it has 932 pages packed with pictures and illustrations of swift water techniques.[1]
  • Manuel Technique de Canyonisme: available only in French, relates to aquatic canyon techniques and comes with a DVD about progression in swift water.[2] It replaces the older Manuel Technique de Descente de Canyon, which is available for free as a PDF.[3]
  • HIDROTOPOGRAFÍA, Movimiento de agua en los cañones: ebook written by Javier Rodríguez Escobar. Grupo Isis. (España, 2005) is a good intro to swift water dangers and techniques. An updated version of this document can be found at http://www.xn--caonismo-e3a.com/index.php/tecnicas/item/hidrotopografia


Although reading swift water information is not a substitute for hands-on learning and expert instruction, this page summarizes some basic swift water techniques useful in many Class C canyons.

Team dynamics

Swift water creates special needs for the ways in which teams interact and makes some techniques common in other areas less effective. See the Team dynamics (swift water) page for more information.


Swift water presents additional challenges for rappelling and rope work. See the Rappelling in swift water page for more information.


Swift water canyons usually provide ample opportunity for jumping and sliding. See the Jumping and sliding page for more information.


Swift water canyons require having some flotation, and any gear that does not float will inevitably sink to the bottom of a pool if not secured. See the Flotation page for more information.

Water hazards

There are many natural features in swift water that require special techniques to navigate safely. See the Water hazards page for more information.


  1. Scuola Nazionale Tecnici Soccorso in Forra (2013). Manuale Tecnico di Soccorso in Forra: : Progressione e Soccorso in Canyon. Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico. ISBN 9788895656021
  2. Fédération Française de Spéléologie, Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l’Escalade (2007). Manuel Technique de Canyonisme. Nota Bene. ISBN 9782951698772
  3. Ecole Francaise de Descente de Canyon, Fédération Française de Spéléologie (1999). Manuel Technique de Descente de Canyon. Spelunca librairie. ISBN 9782900894088


Information provided by automated processes. Authors are listed in chronological order.

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