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Whitewater Recreationists’ Tradeoffs among Social, Resource, and Managerial Attributes Segmented by Specialization Level

Silvia Kainzinger, Arne Arnberger, Robert C. Burns


Recreation specialization is a leisure concept used frequently in outdoor recreation; applied here to further understand heterogeneity among whitewater boaters. This study used a sample of two low-use Oregon rivers (one managed by the U.S. Forest Service and one by the Bureau of Land Management). To provide for the best possible low-use experience, managers should understand boaters’ preferences of social, resource, and managerial attributes and the relative importance placed on those attributes. This research analyzed whether preferences and tradeoffs of 308 whitewater boaters for social, resource and managerial attributes of riverscapes differ in level of recreation specialization in whitewater boating. A visual discrete choice experiment explored the differences in preferences and tradeoff behavior for river trip scenarios between three specialization groups. The results revealed that boaters with different specialization levels had similar preferences for two social attributes (number of people on the river, waiting time for parking). Paddlers of all specialization levels placed high importance on the attribute number of people on the river, suggesting that this attribute plays a significant role for boaters recreating in low-use settings. Most boaters were willing to tolerate managerial restrictions (e.g., river access fee) to achieve the desired low-use river experience. River management can ensure low-use levels by using direct management systems such as user fee up to eight dollars, or partial allocation systems. The resource attributes (river difficulty, trip length) differed among the specialization groups confirming that more specialized boaters are looking for a more challenge-driven experience. Resource managers can use this information to define a target group for a specific river. Finally, length can be adjusted according to the specialization level of the target group by offering more river access areas. Study findings suggest that preferences and tradeoff behavior are not always consistent along the specialization continuum and that a low-use river setting attracts a particular target group of boaters. 

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discrete choice; whitewater recreation; specialization; preferences; tradeoffs

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