Whitewater Rafting BSA award is just around the river bend

The best part about whitewater rafting with your Scout troop or Venturing crew: every seat is in the splash zone.

The thrill and challenge of whitewater rafting inspired the Whitewater Rafting BSA award. It is the BSA’s eighth and newest aquatics award and will be available later this year for youth and adult members of Boy Scout, Varsity, Venturing or Sea Scout units.

The official requirements, which will be posted online at the BSA Aquatics Program page later this year, will focus on safety and basic paddling skills for whitewater up to Class III.

Note: This isn’t one you can go out and earn on your own. Instruction and skill completion must be supervised by a professionally trained or licensed rafting guide. A qualified raft captain must be in the raft during the trip. To earn the award, you’ll need to help paddle and steer the raft; simply riding in a raft rowed by a guide won’t count.

Scouts and Venturers who participate in whitewater rafting at the 2017 National Jamboree later this month will be among the first who are eligible to earn this award.

Patches and pocket cards are in production and will be available at scoutstuff.org and in local Scout Shops later this season. A support brochure is also planned.

The patch, seen in mock-up form at the top of this post, will be worn on swimming trunks.

BSA aquatics awards

The Whitewater Rafting BSA award is a logical addition to the BSA’s existing aquatics award offerings:

Boardsailing BSA Kayaking BSA BSA Lifeguard Mile Swim BSA
Scuba BSA Snorkeling BSA BSA Stand Up



  1. Some of our scouts have earned the Kayaking merit badge – how are the requirements for this Kayaking patch different? Why have both?

    • Friend Skibo: Read the fine print… Oooo, a Kayak is not a Raft is not a Canoe is not a Rowboat. “Different strokes for different folks, er, watercraft ! ” Some water should not even be attempted in a Kayak, or an open boat canoe. John Muir went down the Colorado Grand Canyon in BIG rowboats. I am not certain any experienced guide would want to do that in a rigid boat nowadays.

      • Mostly because you’ll get more water in your face/mouth if you go down in a small kayak and the fecal count of that water is really high — it’s a great way to get sick. But on other rivers, with similar rapids, people go down in short kayaks.

      • John Muir never went to through the Grand Canyon via boat. You might have been thinking of Major John Wesley Powell, the one-armed professor and future director of the US Geological Survey. In 1869, Powell lead the first expedition down the Grand Canyon with nine others. Those “Big” rowboats were three 21’x4′ freight boats (dory) and a smaller 16′ rowboat. They were hauling 7,000 pounds of food and gear for the 10 month expedition due to the lack of infrastructure in Arizona at the time.

        Today, you can book a 3 to 18 day trip with a professional outfitter through the Canyon from about $1K to $6K, depending on length of the trip and your needs.

    • I have often wondered why BSA issues awards that are similar to merit badges. Your question about kayaking MB versus Kayaking BSA is a good one. Taking a quick look at the requirements for both (on meritbadge.org!), it looks like they are very similar. The SCUBA BSA requirements are basically what you would do as part of PADI open water diver certification, which is a requirement for SCUBA MB.

      I can see having awards for things that are not a merit badge, like stand-up paddleboarding or snorkeling. I have noticed that summer camps tend to offer these awards as part of their open program periods, and attract older scouts. Maybe they do not have the same time commitment as the merit badges at camp?

      • Reason for Kayaking BSA and Kayaking MB is that the award came out first. That came out in the early to mid 1990s, and hte MB came out late 90s early 2000s

        • My apologies! Even though my son is part of a sea scout ship in addition to his troop I often forget there are other groups under the BSA umbrella,

      • As noted by others the ones that duplicate had awards before the merit badges existed. Wouldn’t be surprising if the others (particularly something like paddleboard that is fairly new overall) wind up doing the same at some point (going into a MB format, that is).

      • I dont know the “why” to your question, but I am greatful when they do. There are an awful lot of female venturers that would love to earn some of the same merit badges that the boy scouts do, but that is not an option. At least when awards such as this are offered, they feel as if they accomplished something too and have a visible reminder of their achievements.

  2. Back in the 90’s, my troop had excellent FUN on whitewater rafting trips! The weekend excursion would include camping near the river and some memorable eating. We also did a different kind of rafting that wasn’t so much an aquatics activity, but more of a Scout Engineering challenge, (and one that we’d never attempt on white water). That was (and is) raft BUILDING. Thought I’d interject this, because it’s also a whole lotta, outstanding fun, steeped in tradition, and replete with a wide range of Scouting opportunities. As always, I love to share this video, which captures and reveals what I construe to be real Scouting in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqTqAfdcuiM Rafting-related activities—badge or no badge, really neat stuff!

  3. This also give female Venturers an opportunity to earn patches (they can’t earn MB’s). And, unless I’m mistaken, these are awards that adults can earn as well.

  4. So I have 6 Scouts from our troop going to Jambo next week and they are all signed up for white water rafting. Will they earn this badge while at Jambo?

  5. My troop just got back doing a whitewater trip a couple of days ago on the Salmon River in Riggins, Idaho. 🙂 Does that count???

    • It depends- The award states that the scout has to “Paddle & Steer” the raft, not just ride. Most Western guides use oar rigs, where they do all the work themselves. In the East/Appalachia, most guides guide with paddles, and the customers/crew paddle as well. I’ll bet your boat on the Salmon was an Oar Rig, not a Paddle Boat.

  6. The Jambo troops from Central Florida are doing Whitewater the day before Jambo as part of their trip. Would this count? It is on the same river just outside of SBR.

  7. Parents, the KEY Word is “ELIGIBLE”…vs. given automatically. Your SCOUT should check out what ALL the requirements are for completion so He or She knows before they go.

  8. My sons contingent went white water rafting at Jamboree but I haven’t heard anything else about this award. Does anyone who attend Jambo and went white water rafting have any info on this award?

  9. My son went to National Jamboree and a few weeks ago, he received the BSA Whitewater Rafting patch and card. But when I went to record them in Troopmaster and Council (I am the Advancement Chair for the troop), it doesn’t appear in either place. Maybe it’s too new? I guess I will calendar it for the future so I don’t forget to record for him.

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