Wilderness Packrafting


“Being with MWS was probably one of the most confidence boosting, empowering experiences of my life! It was so awesome to be lucky enough to explore one of the most remote places in Montana. Plus, learning new technical skills was super radical!”
—Chloe, Wilderness Packrafting + Fly Fishing Student

Expedition Overview

Dates: July 11 - 25, 2023
Age: Entering grade 11 - graduating seniors
Group size: max 10 students/3 instructors
Length: 15 Days
Tuition: $5,250
2 weeks packrafting (inflatable kayaks) + Fly Fishing

*Note: MWS river trips on the Main Salmon are run by SOAR Northwest, a legal operator and permit holder on the Main Salmon, River of No Return.
Questions? Send us an email.

Suggested Prior Experience:
MWS Intro to Packrafting Adventure
(or equivalent)

MWS Essential Eligibility Criteria
Packing List 
apply Now

Expedition Highlights

  • Packraft (inflatable kayak) the "Main" section of the Salmon River in Idaho
  • Learn swift water rescue techniques
  • Adventurous backcountry paddling experiences on exciting whitewater
  • Wilderness decision-making and communication skills
  • Experience pristine ecosystems, huge river beaches, and natural hot springs

Expedition Description

The Wilderness Packrafting Expedition (WPE) offers students interested in whitewater paddling the opportunity to learn and apply technical skills across a two week, progressive expedition on some amazing Northern Rockies rivers.

Section 1
In the first part of the WPE course, participants will focus on the fundamentals of packrafting on moving water, learning essential paddling, river safety, rigging, and rescue techniques. We’ll work with each student to build comfortability and confidence navigating short stretches of whitewater, and the expedition team will learn to work together to accomplish all the tasks necessary for remote wilderness travel.

Section 2
Having built a strong paddling foundation, the team will transition to the true wilderness portion of the expedition, launching their packrafts on the famous "River of No Return" stretch of the Salmon River in Idaho. Here they’ll take on some more challenging & remote whitewater, applying all the competencies gained during week one. The Salmon river provides amazing scenery and seclusion. It will give students the chance to learn about and experience a truly wild setting, picking up valuable teamwork and backcountry leadership skills along the way.

The WPE course will provide a foundation of whitewater competency; in addition to core technical packrafting skills, students will practice swift water rescue techniques and be challenged as a team to identify, understand, and avoid water hazards as part of our river risk management curriculum. Each student will have multiple opportunities to lead the group as the Expedition Leader of the Day to gain experience with newly acquired leadership skills.

For more information about MWS core curriculum and expedition progression see Expedition Life.

Expedition Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Teamwork and communication skills

  • Learn positive communication skills with diverse group members to create a healthy community, build trust, and make sound decisions in the backcountry together
  • Develop an expedition philosophy, apply it to the course, and understand how it can transfer back to the student’s home environment

Safety and wilderness based decision making

  • Backcountry hazard evaluation and risk reduction guidelines and tools
  • First aid awareness for backcountry settings: identification and treatment of common backcountry illness and injuries
  • Learn to collaboratively make decisions in remote environments that prioritizes individual and group safety

Conservation Ethic

  • Use basic observational and interpretive skills to demonstrate an understanding and respect for the natural environment
  • Discuss the history, facts and potential solutions to pertinent environmental and social issues affecting the wilderness in the expedition area
  • Reflect upon and discuss the conveyance of wilderness conservation ethics into personal life and build a capacity for commitment and stewardship to wild places
  • Develop comprehensive understanding of Leave No Trace© ethics and apply them during the expedition

Backcountry camping and navigation skills

  • Use safe backcountry kitchen practices to cook nutritious meals on a camp stove or fire
  • Demonstrate an ability to select an appropriate campsite and set up a shelter while minimizing the impact on the ecosystem
  • Understand and demonstrate how to stay healthy, warm, and comfortable in the backcountry
  • Understand and demonstrate techniques for camping and traveling in bear habitat

Technical Skills

  • Inflating, deflating, packing and securing equipment in an inflatable packraft
  • Reading water and understanding hydraulics in swift moving water
  • Swift water rescue skills
  • Packraft control and paddling skills in swift moving water and rapids
Fly Fishing
  • Basic understanding of Entomology in respect to fishing
  • Catch and release principles and ethics
  • Fishing techniques; casting, knots, reel control
  • Basic river and mountain lake ecology
apply Now
Montana Wilderness School
P.O. Box 1183
Bozeman, MT 59771

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