Going on a white water raft trip will introduce you to a whole new language. You’ll hear boatmen talk about holes and groovers and endos on your Grand Canyon expedition, along with a slew of other mysterious phenomenons. “Swamper” was a new term for me on my first river trip, and I wondered what its origins were.
The term reportedly originated in the South, in the mid-1800s, and referred to a workman who cleared roads for a tree feller in the swamps. Now, it’s slang for any assistant worker or person who performs odd jobs. Besides river runners, truckers, loggers and movers also use the term, along with restaurant workers.
A swamper is a boatman in training, the third crew member on a Grand Canyon Whitewater rafting tour. He or she has some experience piloting a boat, but not quite as much as your trip leader and second boatman.
Swampers are work horses. They often are up earliest each morning — long before the crack of dawn — setting up the kitchen and putting on the coffee. They’re usually the last ones to bed at night, the first ones to volunteer for the dirtiest jobs, and they do it all with the biggest smiles on their faces.
Now you know!