The Po Chu and Mo Chu Rivers in Bhutan meet at the dramatic 17th century Punakha Dzong monastery

Expanding the IRF River Family in Bhutan

By Zachary Collier
The rivers of Bhutan were first explored by groups of international kayakers in the late 1990s. They discovered some phenomenal runs for both rafts and kayaks ranging from Class I to V+. In the 2000s these explorers brought groups of kayakers to Bhutan for the first commercial whitewater trips.

Bhutan’s first local river guides were originally trained by kayakers. As rafting became more common, these guides trained in Nepal and were mentored by Nepali rafting guides who worked in Bhutan during the busy season.

The past decade has seen a steady increase in the number of international visitors to Bhutan for rafting, kayaking, and/or SUP trips. My company, Northwest Rafting Company, offers multi-day rafting+culture adventures to this Himalayan nation for people who love whitewater. At the same time, day trip offerings on the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu (chhu is the Dzongkha word for river) for the average visitor to Bhutan has exploded. I remember bringing my guests to the put-in for the Mo Chhu in 2011 and not seeing another raft. These days the put-in for this popular commercial trip is full of rafts, guides, gear, and vehicles.

There are now six rafting companies in Bhutan. Most of them do trips on the Class II Mo Chhu in the Punakha Valley, but they are starting to branch out to many of the nearby Class III, IV, and V rivers. As this industry grows, Bhutanese guides are looking for increased professional training.

In order to assist, we began a fundraiser so that Bhutan’s most experienced river guides, Thinley and Chencho, can take an IRF Instructor Course in Oregon next spring. We also hope to raise enough funds that IRF Assessor Mark Hirst can make a trip to Bhutan next fall to observe the first IRF course taught by Thinley and Chencho and approve them as full IRF instructors.

This training will allow Thinley and Chencho to certify other guides in Bhutan as IRF guides and trip leaders and raise the level of training throughout the Bhutanese guiding community. Please check out our Indiegogo fundraiser and consider making a donation. You’ll be helping this exquisite Himalayan kingdom [or ‘nation’] build its economy and share its rivers with the world.

#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #rafting #StrongerTogether #internationalrafting #RiverFamily #WeAreIRF