Wilderness Leadership Program (WLP)


Wilderness Leadership Program (WLP)

Age: 17 +

Location: One of Canada’s premier whitewater rivers

Length: 47 day program

Dates and Prices


Excited to be in Labrador

PaddleFoot offers one of the premiere Canoe Tripping Leadership programs in Ontario. If you are highly motivated with a desire to gain new skills and improve your leadership and tripping skills, this course is for you. Many graduates use this course as a stepping stone to employment in guiding, outdoor education and the camping industry. All elements include:
• three international certifications (WRT1, ORCA1, WFA)
• workshops on a variety of relevant topics
• practice leading and teaching your peers
• practical experience on an extended expedition
• a 72 hour solo experience
This comprehensive leadership course is a unique program in three elements.
Element 1 – Certifications and Trip Preparation Skills – 7 Days
Element 2 – Whitewater Canoe Expedition – 34 Days
Element 3 – Solo and Debrief – 6 Days
Taking part in all three elements provides participants with a strong practical background in the areas needed to be a leader in the outdoors. The course combines the technical skills of guiding with the less tangible aspects of leadership development, providing graduates with a comprehensive training program. Graduates will be ready to work for places like PaddleFoot!

Descriptions of the Elements

Element 1 – Certifications and Trip Preparation Skills

7 Days
This section of the program takes place at the base camp. Participants take part in three certification courses and various workshops geared towards trip preparation.

WLP's getting their River Rescue Certifications

Rescue for River Runners (R3)
Rescue 3 International

This certification course is an intensive two-day, 20-hour class. The two days are spent developing and practicing water- rescue skills. The initial emphasis is on developing self-rescue skills. Other components include an in-depth look at: controlling in-water contact rescues, handling hazards and obstacles, setting up technical rope systems, understanding water dynamics and using basic rescue equipment.
Participants should be in good physical condition and good swimmers. We spend a lot of time in the water so wetsuits are recommended.

Wilderness First-Aid (WFA) 
Wilderness Medical Associates
Wilderness First Aid 16 hrs

This course is the minimum requirement for assistant outdoor leaders or for outdoors enthusiasts looking for an introductory first aid course. We devote mornings to lectures and exams. Afternoons are practical sessions and video taped simulations. Emergency simulations with stage makeup enhance the course. Course material covers many topics included in Wilderness Advanced First Aid and gives our participants a higher level of confidence going out on trip.
Participants also receive Adult CPR as part of this course.

Curriculum Highlights: Patient assessment, equipment improvisation, environmental injuries, wilderness medical protocols, patient packaging, body systems, trauma, toxins & allergies.

WLP rivers provide an opportunity to paddle some of the best rivers Central and Eastern Ontario has to offer

Whitewater canoeing skills (ORCA 1) 
Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association Moving Water Level 1

ORCA Moving Water Level One is a two-day whitewater canoeing course. This course is taught in tandem canoes. The moving water 1 is designed for people with little to no white water canoeing experience. Participants should be able to swim and be comfortable in and around water. Some of our WLP participants have more canoeing experience than is needed for this course, therefore the teaching progressions and style of the instructor is their biggest learning focus.
This course covers, canoe design and construction, river reading, trip planning, whitewater principals, eddy out, peel out, S-turn, back and front ferries and much more.
Participants receive Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association Moving Water Level 1A, a certification recognized across Canada and in many other paddling communities.


PaddleFoot Workshops 
Our Guides and staff lead workshops on the following topics:
• Expedition preparation
• Route planning
• Safety program planning
• Emergency procedures
• Care, knowledge and packing of equipment
• Menu planning and food packing
• Map and compass navigation


Element 2 – Whitewater Canoe Expedition
34 Days

After the base camp section of the program, Leadership participants head out for 34 days on one of Canada’s spectacular remote rivers. Some of the amazing rivers that WLP participants have traveled in the past include the:
• Rupert River in Northern Quebec
• Pontax River in Northern Quebec
• Missinaibi River in Northern Ontario
• Moisie River in Labrador & Quebec (Moisie for 2010)
• Broadback River in Northern Quebec
• Harricana River in Northern Ontario
• Attawapiskat River in Northwestern Ontario
• Albany River in Northwestern Ontario

Learning to make bread is just one of the many skills you can learn on the WLP

These rivers have in common, a long drive to the remote drop off and then a spectacular journey through one of Canada’s least traveled waterways. Each of these rivers has historical significance and allows us to retrace the steps of the early Canadians – Hudson Bay Company out posts, thousand year old campsites, and ancient pictographs are all historic spots to investigate.
The focus of the trip for WLP participants is to gain and refine their technical tripping skills while at the same time exploring their own leadership style and other interpersonal skills. Participants gain the experience that only an extended expedition can provide. Each person is challenged on a daily basis as they move through the daily routines of wilderness travel: map and compass route finding, reading rapids, portaging, campsite selection, and campsite living. But the challenges are not only physical as the group lives, works and plays together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Problem-solving, decision-making and leadership are all needed skills as the group moves from 10 individuals to a highly functioning group.

Workshops continue out on trail as Guides present topics relevant to wilderness travel and expedition. Participants have the opportunity to teach at least one lesson to their peers and are given the chance to take on a leadership role in a safe and supportive environment.

Some of the topics covered on the expedition are as follows.

Technical skills:

• Risk analysis
• River safety – expedition style
• River management
• Reading and Scouting rapids
• Whitewater paddling skills
• Portaging
• Campsite management
• Fire-building
• Cooking
• Shelter-building
• Stove safety and use
• Low-impact camping

Make bonds that can't be broken

 Group and Interpersonal Skills

• Leadership
• Communication
• Group dynamics
• Teaching and facilitation
• Decision-making
• Goal-setting
• Problem-solving
• Conflict resolution
• Feedback
Other topics:
• Star identification
• Ecology
• Juggling
• Trail Saunas
• Campfire singing
• Nature crafts
• How to roast the quintessential marshmallow

Yes the expedition is about workshops, learning and refining skills – but fun and friendship are just as important! Everyone takes part in all aspects of trip life, so we pay a lot of attention to cooperation and communication. Daily debriefings provide a forum to discuss trip and interpersonal issues in a supportive environment. Laughter and fun are non-negotiable!

Element 3 Solo and Debrief

6 Days

The Wilderness Leadership Program is concluded with a solo experience for 72 hours, this extremely important element provides an opportunity for participants to reflect and process their experiences. Guides facilitate preparation and debriefing sessions, providing space for reflection and support before returning to urban life.

Solo campsite set up by a WLP

The Wilderness Leadership Program is a very intense learning experience. Participants are called upon to live up to a standard of excellence in all activities, from program leadership to assisting with guiding responsibilities and even to helping with trip clean-up. The days are long and there is little time for solitude. For this reason, the third element of the WLP is virtually essential.

The group travels together to a spot where there are a number of small campsites. After a safety briefing, each participant is dropped off at a campsite of their own along with food and essentials. Guides complete daily checks and trippers are never farther than a whistle blow away. After 72 hours of solitude and reflection, the participants come together again and have an opportunity to share in each other’s experiences and to process the summer of learning. This is a chance to digest the events of the summer in the comfort of the WLP group and under the leadership of the WLP Guides. For many participants, solos are the most powerful, and memorable moments of the summer.


Paddlefoot Sample Trip Meals

Typical Day on Trip