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Is it OK to take Cubscouts rafting?

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I am seeking some clarification if we are allowed to take Cubscouts on a Rafting trip down a river.  According to the age-appropriate guidelines, it is ok to take them rafting on "gently flowing water".  I guess that it all comes down to: what is the BSA definition of "gently flowing water"?
The river that we are planning to run is mostly Class I with half a dozen class II- features that can be easily avoided by running river right or river left.  The overall gradient is 4 fpm.
Other details that are important:
  • Safety Afloat guidelines will be strictly followed
  • All participants are classified as swimmers (have passed the BSA swimmer test).
  • The trip is self guided, but each raft is guided by an adult with experience guiding rafts as well as other boats on much more difficult rivers.
  • Rafts/PDFs/Paddles are rented from a commercial rafting company.
  • The river is near an urban area, cell phone coverage is excellent, and the river is frequently patrolled by the Ranger (If needed, EMT services would be there in 5 minutes).
  • All adults have taken Safety Afloat training.
  • Several leaders have taken more advanced BSA aquatics training such as Paddle Craft Safety and/or Swimming & Water Rescue.
  • Several leaders have taken First Aid and CPR training.
  • One leader is a YMCA lifeguard.
To me it seems like our plan for this trip is already total overkill as far as safety is concerned.  Outside of scouts, my 9 year old Webelo Scout runs the river in a solo kayak all the time.  And I frequently see people on the river in an inner tube without even a paddle or a PFD (I know not a good idea...but just to illustrate how "easy" the river is).
Edited by Tatung42
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Did you find "gently flowing water" here?   https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-685.pdf

I always first refer to the Guide To Safe Scouting.    https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34416.pdf   Page 15 says "Cub Scout activities afloat are limited to council, district, pack, or den events that do not include moving water or float trips (expeditions)."

I fear BSA's internal documentation has internal conflicts way too often.  Their age sheet says it's okay for wolf and above.  Their G2SS Safety Afloat says no.  BSA really needs to gear up their quality control  Situations like this are aggravating.  

Also, I fear calling your council to ask may result in a 3rd different answer.  :(

IMHO ... the issue is not whether your son can do it.  It's really the lowest common denominator situation.  It's also a peer-pressure issue causing a dangerous situation.  Often in dens, there are 2 or 3 strong swimmers.  2 or 3 okay.   And 1 or 2 weak or non-swimmers.   And, there are often dads with poor health or not able to swim that don't want to admit it.   Essentially, lots of cub scouts and lots of dads are just not up to moving water.  ... So a den saying let's go tubing can cause a dangerous situation.

Also, a class I can quickly become a class II or III depending on rain or lack of rain.   ... Also, I generally refer to class I as a river.   :)


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Thank you for the quick reply.  Yes I was looking at the age-appropriate guidelines, but you are right that the G2SS says no.  I guess that answers my question, and we will wait until scouts BSA.

And yes I know that just because my 9 year old daughter can do it, that doesn't mean that the cub scouts should be allowed to do it.  I was just using that as an example to illustrate how "easy" the river is.  My family does a ton of stuff that any reasonable person would consider totally safe, but that is not allowed in cub scouts (and sometimes even not allowed in scouts BSA).

Interesting perspective on peer pressure.  We already did our swim checks, and we made it abundantly clear that anyone (both scouts and adults) who do not pass the test as a  "swimmer" will not be allowed to operation a boat (except where allowed in the G2SS).  We also did the swim tests early enough to give time for people with marginal swimming abilities to practice and improve so that they can try the test again before our summer aquatics activities.

Also, we are well aware of what appropriate flow rates for rafting the river are and where to check online for the current and foretasted flows.

Edited by Tatung42
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Tatung42 ... My apologies.  I never meant to infer you did not know or that you were unreasonable.  I fully understand and I've been there.  I was in your situation 12 years ago with my second son.  I had taken him on long canoe trips.  Overnights on a local slow moving river with my father-in-law.  I think it created some great memories for both of us. 

Then, the den wanted to go on a canoe trip as part of their fun.  But we did follow BSA's rules and we grumbled quite a bit about it.  It seemed ridiculous that an outdoor program put such tight restrictions on their members.  

On BSA's side though, there is clearly a question of whether an 8 to 11 year old kid is mentally and physically ready for a canoe trip.  Can they save themselves?  Do you require one-adult-to-one-scout ratio so there is an adult to save each scout?  What if the adult is too busy saving themselves?    Or saving the canoe?   I've seen slow class I get dangerous because rocks get exposed and canoes can get trapped or tipped on those rocks.  Add a quick forming storm and storms do happen.  ... Even in slow moving water and with life jackets, it can get dangerous quickly.  

I flip back and forth on this each time I think about it.  IMHO, it should be fine.  I as a parent would absolutely take my kid doing it.  But then again, it's my kid.  As an organization, can BSA take on the responsibility for approving what could easily be an overreach by the den leaders ?


Edited by fred8033
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