Southwest Leadership Semester

Dates Days Age Tuition Course #  
09/24/2017 - 11/12/2017 50 18+ $7895 CUGL-773
The Southwest Leadership Semester is a 50-day journey through the mountains, canyons, deserts, and rivers of one of the most beautiful and geologically stunning landscapes in the world.
The ultimate focus of the semester is character development and effective leadership. As on all Outward Bound courses, the Southwest Leadership Semester uses wilderness adventure to develop leadership, self-confidence, compassion, service, fitness, and educational skills. On this course in particular, you will focus on developing the confidence, knowledge and integrity essential for effective leadership. Whether you are learning how to safely tie in on belay, deciding as a group how to navigate through new terrain, or setting up a minimum-impact campsite for the evening, you will utilize these skills.


Course Activities


Each day on the river is spent learning to recognize and navigate various obstacles and hazards in the river, and how to anticipate the forces of the current from far enough upstream.  You and your companions will work to become a team, coordinating your spacing and paddle strokes. You will have an opportunity to be the captain of your raft and put to use what you’ve learned as you maneuver through adrenaline-filled rapids and flat-water sections.

In places, the canyon rims rise thousands of feet above, enclosing you in a remote world of rushing water, delicate ecosystems, and unbelievable beauty. Most courses get the opportunity to take day hikes away from the river and up to the canyon rim. These hikes provide amazing views, a change of pace and often the chance to see Native American ruins, petroglyphs, pictographs and strange but beautiful geological formations.

Kayaking (only on Summer Semesters)

In addition to rafts, on our Summer Semester you may also navigate downriver in sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks combine stability with maneuverability. You will take your experience predicting whitewater and hydrology from the rafts and apply it to a smaller, yet more responsive watercraft. In a kayak you move, predict, and react with every movement of the water and are met with exhilaration as you charge through crashing waves and negotiate the river’s obstacles. You will learn the new skills specific to kayaking: eddy turns, bracing, surfing, and self-rescue. You will travel close together and support one another through rapids and share the stories of each rapid with an ear-to-ear grin on your face. With these boats, everything depends on you: your effort, your planning, and your decisions.

Canyoneering (only on Spring and Fall Semesters)

Canyoneering involves travel in canyons that are often narrow and steep with many obstacles to negotiate. Traveling through them requires a combination of scrambling up and down-climbing over boulders, rappelling, lowering packs and walking with your pack on.

This rugged, rocky terrain requires teamwork and effective decision-making. To meet the demands of technical terrain you encounter, Instructors will begin by teaching the foundational skills, such as basic movement over rock, necessary for efficient travel.


Your course will begin with lessons in basic travel and camping techniques. Along the way, you learn Leave No Trace techniques; map and compass navigation; camp craft; and get a feel for the human and natural history of the area. The true value of the trek takes hold as you backpack in the canyons and out across the mesas, camp on vast expanses of desert slickrock, and stop along the way to explore amazing ruins and interesting geology.

Most importantly, you get to spend time in an incredible area of the desert, sleep under the stars, feel the spring or fall sunshine on your face, and maybe watch a few sunsets over this magical landscape.

Rock Climbing

In the mountains, or on the river, you may spend a day experiencing the thrill and grace of rock climbing or the control and exhilaration of rappelling. This is a great opportunity to challenge your fears and push yourself to places you never thought possible. Rock climbing/rappelling instruction is for all levels and includes basic climbing techniques, helmet and harness use, climbing commands and belaying.

Final Expedition

The course will end with your Final Expedition, where you and your team will put all your newly acquired skills into practice. Depending on your team’s ability levels, your Instructors will step back during this section and allow you and your team to take over decision-making responsibilities for navigation, time schedules, communication, and general leadership.

Possible Course Areas

La Sal Mountains, Utah

The La Sal Mountains rise dramatically out of the desert, towering 9000’ above the surrounding canyonlands and the sporting mecca of Moab.  The La Sals are known for their groves of aspen, rich amount of wildlife, high summits, and incredible views overlooking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and the Four Corners area.  Hidden lakes dot the landscape.  Peaks in the La Sals range from ten thousand to just under thirteen thousand feet and include the highest peaks in Southern Utah.

Uinta Mounatins, Utah

The Uintas are Utah’s highest mountain range with Kings Peak rising more than 13,000 feet above sea level. The Uintas are dotted with alpine lakes and have vast expanses of terrain above treeline within one of Utah’s largest designated wilderness areas.

Canyon Country, Utah

The most spectacular aspects of the Utah landscape are the hidden treasures found within its vast canyon networks, formed by millennia of wind and water erosion. The canyonlands of Southern Utah are still as stunning, mysterious, and wild as they were for the Anasazi and Fremont Indians who roamed these lands over 800 years ago, and whose ruins and rock art still abound in the canyons. The sandstone canyons are a geological playground for adults with scrambling, teamwork, and rappelling.  They are composed of a spell-binding labyrinth of alcoves, fins, pinnacles, buttes, towering walls, ledges, and arches just waiting to be explored.

San Juan River, Utah

The San Juan River in southern Utah; a major tributary of the Colorado River, flows 83 miles through the deeply incised sandstone slick rock country of the Colorado Plateau in many tight bends.  The San Juan is world renowned for archaeological sites of ancient Indians featuring both petroglyphs and spacious cliff dwellings accessible on side hikes from the river. The San Juan River is also well known for its exquisite natural scenery as you’ll soon find out once you are deep within the towering canyon walls.

Desolation/Gray Canyon on the Green River, Utah

When legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang needed to escape from the eyes of pursuing posses, they would head to the vast and beautiful wilderness of Desolation Canyon.  Midway through its journey through Utah, the Green River flows through Desolation Canyon, a truly wild location where spectacular rock formations, impressive ancient rock art, and abandoned 19th century ranches await explorers. You will travel this section of river in both sit-on-top kayaks as well as rafts as the 60+ rapids continue to grow in size.  At its greatest depths, Desolation Canyon plunges to carve a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon.  The towering rock walls of Desolation give way to the earthy bluffs of Gray Canyon, creating a sudden contrast of scenery for the last 25-miles of the canyon.  Desolation and Gray Canyons offer a perfect blend of fun and challenging rapids with off river hikes to jaw-dropping destinations.

Gates of Lodore on the Green River, Utah

Whitewater on the Green River begins at our course start where the river enters the imposing Gates of Lodore.  Red sandstone escarpments rise up 2,000′ above the river as it carves a 45-mile course of placid flat-water and raging rapids through three dramatic canyons—Lodore, Whirlpool and Split Mountain.  This section of river is enclosed within Dinosaur National Monument, and you will be privileged to witness the towering cliffs as well as rock art from the Fremont Indians, who called these canyons home over 1000 years ago.

Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River, Utah

One of the most rugged and beautiful canyons in the West, Cataract Canyon takes you through the heart of Canyonlands National Park. You will learn how to guide a whitewater raft as you float past natural wonders and ancient ruins to the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers while preparing for what awaits downstream.  The Colorado River roars through 31 exciting rapids that rate with those of the Grand Canyon in power and difficulty, including the famous Mile Long Rapids and “the Big Drops.”  In the nearby canyons, fantastic rock shapes carved by the whimsical forces of nature await you as your group ventures off-river to jaw-dropping views




photos by Chris Benson

Course Documents

Click below to download a sample itinerary or a list of clothing required for the course.

CUGL-772 – Itinerary and Travel

CUGL-772 – Required Clothing

CUGL-773 – Itinerary and Travel

CUGL-773 – Required Clothing

CUGL-771 – Itinerary and Travel

CUGL-771 – Required Clothing