The Swamper Wants to Boof the Groover? | Need to Know River Lingo

Whether you are new to running rivers or you are a river rat, knowing the language of the river is a necessity to understanding your guides and other passengers. After reading the list of lingo below, you’ll sound a like a seasoned river runner in no time!

  • Bar – an accumulation of sand or rock along the river banks or in the river channel
  • Boof or boofing – the sound or act of a raft or kayak when it hits big air and slaps against the water
  • Bow – the front of the boat
  • C.F.S. – cubic feet per second; the measurement of volume flowing in a river
  • Confluence – the point where two or more rivers merge
  • Dig or Dig in – paddle command used for paddlers to “dig” paddles deep in the water to propel the raft forward
  • Dry bag – waterproof bag used for storage
  • Duckies – inflatable kayaks
  • Dumptruck – when a raft literally dumps everyone and everything into the water and carries on downstream
  • Eddy – a place where the current of the river either stops or changes directions
  • Eddy fence – the water between the eddy and the current
  • Flatwater – calm water without rapids or high waves
  • High water – water flow is above average with fast currents
  • High side – a command meaning all paddlers move to the high side of the raft to re-distribute the weight, preventing a flip or dumptruck
  • Hole – where water flows over an obstacle and reverses back into itself
  • Groover – portable toilet on the trip; the name comes from early models of ammo cans that had no toilet seats and would leave grooved lines on passengers’ backsides (also referred to as the Oscar)
  • Left bank or river left – left side of the river when facing downstream
  • Line – the path through a rapid
  • Low water – water flow is below average with more rocks and obstacles
  • P.F.D. – personal flotation device
  • Put-in – the spot where a river trips start
  • Rapid – a stretch of water that has fast moving and turbulent water
  • Riffle – a small rapid of shallow, bubbly water
  • River mile – term used for the miles along a river, beginning at the mouth
  • Right bank or river right – right side of the river when facing downstream
  • Runoff – water from snow melt which flows down from the mountains
  • Sinus cleaner – a short, unexpected plunge where water may get up your nose
  • Stern – the back of the boat
  • Swamper – a crewmen who helps with camp setup, cooking, and any other odd tasks
  • Take-out – the spot where a river trips end


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