Since 1999 the ACA has served the canyoneering community through excellence in education, including training and certification for canyon leaders, professional canyon guides and rescue team members. We began as the American Canyoneering Association. In 2011 the ACA reorganized as the American Canyoneering Academy to emphasize our primary role as an educational resource.

 

Some Canyoneering History

Canyoneering in its simplest form has been around since prehistoric times. Ancestral Pueblo Indians, more commonly known as the Anasazi, were exploring the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau since before the time of Christ. In fact, evidence can be found of prehistoric people inhabitting canyons, not only in America, but also in Europe, Australia and around the world.

Canyoning, as it is known in Europe, has been a popular adventure sport for many years. Although a few Americans have been exploring the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau for equally as long, the modern sport of canyoneering, as it is called in the United States, has only become popular in recent years.

ACA founder, Rich Carlson, has been canyoneering since 1977 and started the first canyoneering guide service in the United States in Arizona in 1990. In 1998 he had a vision of organizing an association of enthusiasts involved in this growing adventure sport. He acquired the domain name, canyoneering.net, and set up a simple web site that begged the question, "Should there be an association of canyoneers, and if so, what should it do?" Rich received input from nearly 300 people. He became galvanized by all the interest the web site received and started down a path that eventually led to the formation of the American Canyoneering Association.

In May of 2000 Rich started the "Canyons Group" on Yahoo, the first on-line discussion group in the U.S. The Canyons Group was THE forum for discussion and consensus-building regarding important safety and ethics issues. Among the most productive results of this group were the publication of the information booklet "Canyons" (available in English and Spanish, free from our Training Resources Page) and the development of the ACA Canyon Rating System, now recognized around the world.

From the seeds planted by the ACA have grown more forums and groups, more schools, more techniques, more gear, more ideas. We've been copied, but never equaled.

 

Since our inception, thousands of people have received their training from the ACA directly or through our network of certified instructors. It isn't an exaggeration to say that the majority of canyoneers in America either received training from the ACA or from someone who received training from the ACA. We are extremely proud of the contributions we have made to the sport of canyoneering and are looking forward to continuing in our role as America's Premier Training Organization.

Our Vision

  • To provide renowned, world-class training to canyoneers, professional guides and rescuers
  • To offer cutting edge resources and services that support and enhance the sport of canyoneering
  • To be a community hub for all who share our passion for canyoneering

What people are saying …

“This course will easily become the standard

by which any other canyoneering course will be judged. It was amazing that the professional mountaineering guides found a lot to learn, but the pace was such that a neophyte like me could also pick things up quickly.”

“Awesome opportunity

Rich knows his stuff. His emphasis on safety, patience and his obvious love of teaching canyoneering really make the difference.”

“As always

I am much the richer for my time with Rich. An excellent instructor. Always come away with having learned something new.”

“I just wanted to let you know

what a fabulous time I had in the Level I course that finished last week. I learned an incredible amount of information and had such fun doing it. Dave Black has an infectious, tangible passion for the canyons. Being in his class was a priviledge. Rarely have I met such a capable man. I felt completely secure and comfortable in his presence. He’s the kind of guy you believe could cook you dinner, fix a radio and build a quonset hut from a couple of carabiners and some webbing. No doubt he has forgotten more about canyons and climbing than I will ever know. It is such a gratifying discovery to realize how much you don’t know about something. I have a long way to go, but I am genuinely looking forward to more canyoneering. Thanks very much for a great course.”

“Every canyoneering guide in the U.S.

– and the overwhelming majority of recreational canyoneers – have learned from or have learned from someone who learned from Rich Carlson.”

Read More Testimonials