The River Touring Section (RTS) has been a proud part of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Sierra Club and the paddling community in Wisconsin for 56 years.  Since its inception in 1967, RTS has offered dozens of paddling trips and instructional clinics each year to its members and the general public.  RTS has embodied Sierra Club’s motto, to ‘enjoy, protect and explore’ our environment by introducing the rivers of Wisconsin, and beyond, to new generations of paddlers and by providing endless opportunities for people to safely improve their paddling skills, explore new waterways, ingrain ‘leave-no-trace’ practices, and develop and share a love of the natural world.

Sadly, RTS’ affiliation with the Sierra Club is likely coming to an end.  Paddling, canoe-camping and whitewater paddling in particular, comes with risks.  To address those risks, Sierra Club’s policies for leading paddling trips have evolved such that it is no longer possible for an entirely volunteer-led group like RTS to lead trips in compliance with those policies.

The requirement that trip leaders maintain American Canoe Association (ACA) level-2 or level-3 instructor certification is the most difficult of the new regulations for volunteer leaders to meet. ACA certification requires at least 4 days of training in addition to training, travel and lodging expenses every 4 years, plus annual fees - amounting to over $1000 every 4 years, not counting time off from work.  One is also required to provide ACA-level canoe or kayak instruction during each certification period to maintain certification status. ACA certification is offered for either canoeing or for kayaking.  RTS allows both canoes and kayaks on its trips, so leaders possibly need to maintain certifications for both boat types.

Other new requirements, including that trip details and trip-leader resumes are sent to national SC for review and approval at least 90 days before each trip start date are also challenging, especially if trips need to be tweaked (a different river or co-leader substituted) or postponed due to weather/water condition or illness.

RTS will not be offering any trips or clinics in 2023.   Sierra Club’s watercraft outings policies are currently being reviewed and possibly revised.  If and when the new policies are implemented, RTS co-chairpersons will review them with trip leaders to determine if RTS can resume trips and clinics in the future.

2022 RTS Instructional Clinics

RTS offers instructional clinics for a nominal fee, taught by skilled volunteer instructors. Clinic sizes are limited, so reserve your spot early. Fees are due in advance and are non-refundable unless the clinic is cancelled. Whitewater clinics are for experienced river paddlers who want to learn or improve their whitewater paddling and safety skills.  Additional canoe and kayak clinics are offered for those new to paddling and for those with basic skills who are interested in improving their moving-water river paddling skills so they are ready to step-up to whitewater paddling.  Wilderness-First-Aid and Water-Safety-and-Rescue Clinics will not be held this year, but hopefully again in the future.


May 21: River near Madison (Baraboo River), Class I; Day trip 

Clinic Fee: $20/person.  Designed for paddlers already competent on lakes but new to river paddling.  We’ll review the basic strokes—draws, pry’s, sweeps, forward, back and J. We’ll discuss safety, reading water, and maneuvers; ferries, side slips, and eddy turns. Then we’ll practice these skills on river. Must provide own canoe and gear.

Registration Contact/Leader: Carl Zimm:, 608-957-3673.


June 4-5:  Wolf R.  Class II; Car Camp

Clinic Fee: $40 per person plus camping fees. Basic whitewater paddling skills taught to paddlers who have already mastered basic moving water paddling skills. Emphasis on river reading, safety skills & equipment, review of paddling strokes, and practice eddying, ferrying and surfing. Participants must provide their own gear and properly equipped boats (including airbags) suitable for whitewater. Group campsite B at Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort (near White Lake/ Langlade WI) is reserved for Friday and Saturday nights ($5/person/night payable to RTS), or you can make your own lodging arrangements. 

Registration/Contacts: Phillip Johnsrud: 715-572-9884, (tandem canoes) and Rich Krieg: 920-660-3557, (solo canoes).


June 4-5:  Wolf R.  Class II; Car Camp

Clinic Fee: $40 per person plus camping fees. Basic whitewater paddling skills taught to paddlers who have already mastered kayaking on moving water. Emphasis on river reading, safety skills & equipment, perfecting paddling strokes and practice eddying, ferrying and surfing. Kayaks should be rated for Class II whitewater and have pillars reinforcing the deck. Students require a suitable helmet, PFD, neoprene spray-skirt, paddle, air bags, water bottle, dry bag for clothes-lunch-incidentals, and appropriate paddling clothes for immersion. Group campsite B at Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort is reserved for Fri. and Sat. nights ($5/person/night payable to RTS), or you can make your own lodging arrangements. Peshtigo River Outdoor Learning Center at Bear Paw may rent kayaks and gear. We’ll have multiple instructors and safety boaters.

Registration Contact/Leader: Mari Gasiorowicz: 608-512-7394,  Co-leader: Dan York.  Sign up early; this clinic often fills up.


June 18: Lake near Madison 

Clinic Fee: $20 per person.  This clinic is designed to prepare paddlers for easier and more enjoyable quietwater paddling. Topics include: safety issues, paddling dynamics, practice of important paddling strokes, canoe rescue, and paddling as a team. Participants should bring their own canoe, paddle, PFD (lifejacket), lunch, and drinking water. No shuttle required.

Registration Contact/Leader: Carl Zimm: 608-957-3673. 


Class Q-I Day Trip(s)

Clinic Fee: $20 per person/day. One-day clinic offered on various locations and dates. Locations subject to water levels. 5-person max/clinic. River reading, basic strokes and boat maneuvering will be taught for kayakers who are already competent paddling on lakes. Safety and equipment will be covered as needed. Kayak, neoprene spray skirt, and properly fitting PFD required.

Registration Contact/Leader: Kasy Culbertson: 608-222-0746 (preferred) or

July 7:  Waupaca R. at Brainard’s. Beginning moving water

July 13 and July 15, June 27:  Bark R. at Rome.  Moving water

July 18 and July 20:  Lake Monona at Schluter Beach.  Beginner, kid w/adult

July 21:  Yahara R. Advanced moving water

July 22: Monona Bay at Bernie’s Beach.  Beginner

Aug ??: Bark R. Rome to Hwy 106.  Advanced moving water

WHITEWATER KAYAK CLINIC    CANCELLED because WW park is under construction this summer.

July 23:  Marge Kline Whitewater Park, Yorkville, IL Class II; Day Trip

Clinic Fee: $20 per person. Refine and improve your whitewater skills. This clinic will stress eddy turns, peel outs, ferries, and river reading. The whitewater park has numerous eddies and places to practice the above skills and is suited for instruction at a wide range of water levels. You will have a chance to repeat all or sections of the whitewater course, enabling you to hone your skills. The skills and techniques you develop in this clinic will allow you to paddle whitewater rivers with greater competence and confidence.

Registration Contact: Dan York, 608-345-8147, 


Date/Location TBD

Sea kayak touring on rivers, lakes, Great Lakes, and oceans can be exceptionally fun with good equipment and solid skills. The goal of this clinic will be to improve paddling efficiency and to enhance safety skills for beginner and intermediate paddlers. If you are interested, please email directly for more information. Specific venue and schedule to be determined based on interest.

Registration Contact/Leader: Michael Hammer:

This page last updated: 02-13-2023