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by Karen Blom


Charlemont, MA -  Warm weather, sunshine, and recent heavy rains all added up to a splendid time on the Deerfield River the last few weekends. That is if you're training to become a whitewater raft guide! Zoar Outdoor's spring guide school is nearing completion with 20 perspective raft guides. Trainees wore wetsuits with lots of poly pro under layers and hauled rafts over quickly disappearing snow banks to run the rising rapids of the river. The guide school takes place over 4 consecutive weekends in March before the commercial raft season commences in April.

Trainees are selected through a competitive process that starts with job ads placed regionally in January and ends with congratulatory calls in late February. Folks who become raft guides come from all walks of life for a variety of reasons. This year's group includes several local high school seniors, college students from across the northeast, teachers who have the summer free, camp counselors and park rangers looking for something new,  students from the Outdoor Leadership Program at Greenfield Community College and Marlboro College, a former state trooper, a carpenter and a number of ski /snow board instructors.

 "This allows us to focus on training our summer guides in the required safety and rescue techniques prior to the start of our season so everyone is fresh and ready for our Zoar Gap trips which start on April 15th", explains Brian Pytko, Rafting Manager. . "It's a great group of people and we have a lot of fun while learning the necessary skills. It's especially easy with the warm weather we've had recently", states Pytko.

With the recent heavy rains, there will be plenty of water in the local rivers for some pretty big whitewater this spring. Zoar's spring trips include the Millers River during the first two weeks of April, the Concord River in Lowell during April and May, and the Deerfield River Zoar Gap starting April 15t and continuing all season until mid-October.  The Zoar Gap section is controlled by hydro-electric dams and provides boatable levels all season.

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