Skip to main content

Meet Your River Rafting Guide

River rafting guides are like a box of chocolates.

Well, they are like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you are going to get in terms of specific personalities, but they are also like our almost famous and favorite cast iron Dutch Oven recipe - chillaquiles.  Sometimes referred to as Mexican lasagna.

Steady as rain, as far as their concern for their clients and their safety-first attitudes, but, depending on the guide chef, full of a variation on a theme.

Are these guides really at work?


River rafting guides can be young or old - I'm sorry - green or weathered, trim and fit or slightly doughy and sloth-like, neatly trimmed or scruffy and unkempt, concerned about their appearance or completely unconcerned about their appearance.  In other words, they come in a wide range of physical packages.  Long gone are the days of guides reminiscent of fur trapping mountain men like Jeremiah Johnson.

The guides who work for Orion River Rafting come to the river from all walks of life.  Drawn by their enthusiasm to introduce people to what it is like to 'mess about in boats'.  Lured by their sense of adventure and their natural inclination to be leaders.  Enticed by their love of the outdoors and their desire to be a part of a community.

Some have grand kids, a few only recently received their high school diplomas.  Some own businesses of their own, some administrate large groups of employees at well-known corporations.  Some invest their whole summer river rafting rivers around the Northwest, some are weekend warriors.  Some just show up for the spring high water, some prefer the lesser classes of rivers.

Caution:  Guide at Work

There are engineers, software programmers, plumbers, nurses, lawyers, contractors, electricians, teachers and professors.  Entrepreneurs, small engine mechanics, salespeople, emergency medical technicians, pharmacologists, ski patrollers and baristas.  In brief, river rafting guides come from as many differing occupations as our guests themselves.

Few of them fall under the complimentary pejorative of being called "dirt bags" anymore.  Few of them earn their livings year-round river rafting.  Although it is possible with the development of the global river running industry.

When you raft with Orion, odds are just as good you will have a female guide because it seems with each passing generation the idea of guides needing to be hulking and hirsute diminishes.  We also tend to find women more understanding of the 'empathy' factor in guiding which I wrote about in a previous post.

Regrettably, we do not have wide range of ethnic groups represented within our guide staff or the industry as a whole.  Each year we hope that tide might change through our guide training sign ups.

River rafting guides are individuals capable of making autonomous decisions but required to work together as a team.  Leaders and followers all at once.  Their forte might be telling entertaining jokes or medical know-how.  A prowess in the kitchen or a mind for logistics.  An ability to get the 'big picture' or a photographic memory for rocks and bends and waves.

So, on your next river trip, if you are wondering what your guide will be like, the only thing I can tell you for sure is - they have your best interest at heart, they are safety-conscious and they believe that a bad day on the river is better than a good day at the office.

Popular posts from this blog

Spring River Guide Training

Time to sign up if you want to be a guide, or if you just want to feel comfortable on the river on your own.
Only a few weeks away from our annual seven day guide training odyssey on the Deschutes River in north central Oregon and - as the senior instructor - I am beginning to feel the undertow of another river season.

Orion's guide training course kicks off every whitewater season and is comprised of seasoned and salty veterans, women and men, wide-eyed whitewater neophytes, those who revel in the adversity and those who are challenging their ordinary state of being, whatever that may be.

It is a time for ditching cellphones and the comfort of our creature habits.  Sharing and laughing and looking one another in the eye.  Being physically present because...you have to be to deal with the circumstances of being out amidst the elements.  Setting up tarps in windstorms and cooking over fires.

It will be a memorable trip.  Even for those of us participating in it for the 40th time.

River Rafting is Good for You

I have been rafting for a long time.

My first rafting experience was in the fall of my first year in college.  As a matter of fact, after matriculation, it was the very next thing I did.  The river rafting trip, regarded as my wilderness orientation to Prescott College, was a month long affair.

One month in the wilderness after having spent the majority of my life in well-ordered suburbs where my primary contact with the outdoors involved sports.

You can imagine it was an eye-opener in a number of ways.

My wilderness orientation, which took place over four decades ago, brought me serendipitously to this place.

Overnight raft trips are the single easiest method to 'leave it all behind.'  The 'behind' we referred to leaving used to just mean the traffic and the stressors of modern day life, ringing phones, the hustle and bustle of humanity and bills coming due, responsibilities to uphold.

Now, we are saddled with the ubiquity of always being connected to what is going o…

The Phenomena of People

I do not have a river story for you this week, but I had a visit from a good friend from Bellingham and our reunion reminded me of one of the other reasons I have persevered with this little cottage industry.



I wrote a story a few years back titled "Why I (Continue to) Raft" and the gist of that column was that I realized how much I enjoyed getting people out on the water and watching the transformation.  It ended with the brief tale of my very young nephew from Dallas who floated the Skagit and - at first - was terrified of the moving, darn-cold-if-you're-from-Texas water.  And, despite being on a trip surrounded by a large Y group of boisterous Northwesterners who could not get enough of swimming, it appeared he would endure the trip and be ecstatic to see the takeout and a warm, dry car.

When we were halfway down the river, his entire attitude did an about face.  And by the time we hit the takeout he WAS ecstatic, but not about being finished and back to dry land.  …