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Showing posts from January, 2012

Washington's Best Kept White Water Rafting Secret

In the early days of modern-day river running in the state of Washington, when white water rafting was still relegated to the easier stretches of accessible Class I-III rapids found on the Skagit, Suiattle and lower portions of the Stillaguamish, only intrepid kayakers chose to trek to Darrington, Washington, to dip their paddles in the milky green waters of the Sauk River.



At the start of the 1970s, the only commercial rafting company operating in the state rowed their guests down the river in rafts that needed bailing after every set of waves to keep them from getting too unwieldy from thousands of pounds of river water as ballast.  The brightly colored orange Rogue inflatables this company used were manufactured from incredibly durable material but this also added to their unwieldiness.  In addition, they were lengthy and not well-suited to the boulder-clogged channels that were common on the glacial-fed Sauk River.  To top it all off, the Sauk River access points were primitive …

White Water Rafting - How Safe is It?

Without consulting Adventure Travel industry incident records for the past decade, I will go out on a limb and state that white water rafting - per capita - is probably the safest adventure travel you can undertake.  Especially if you are wearing a life jacket - properly - and refrained from indulging in alcohol prior to your launch, or while on the water.  During river guide training we like to note how 'forgiving' of mistakes a white water river can be.

But you do not want to count on it.

If Blanche Dubois wanted to depend upon the kindness of strangers, that was up to her, but we make sure our neophyte guides do not depend upon the forgiveness of rivers.

This morning I was asked about whether a back that 'flares up' now and then on an otherwise healthy person would preclude participation in a river rafting trip.  Not ever having launched down a white water river with a balky back, I was uncertain how to answer.  I noted to the inquirer that there is paddli…

Prized Trait of a River Rafting Guide

The other day I was asked by a client what I look for when I am assessing a potential river rafting guide.  They wanted to know the key characteristics I thought was most important to guide customers for hire.

The coming white water rafting season will be my 38th year leading trips, training new guides and guiding customers on river trips.  Even though I am 'long in the tooth' and nursing a couple of balky joints, I continue to get out on the water as much as I possibly can.  I continue to head up our guide training program each spring because introducing beginners to river running is always one of the highlights of every season.

Let me start by saying everyone who has the penchant to learn can be taught to steer a raft through white water.  Some folks need lots of instruction - verbal and hand's on.  Some folks need lots of repetition in the captain's seat.  But, in four decades, I have seen very few who don't seem capable of picking up the concept of riv…

The "Best" River Rafting Trip

Leavenworth, Washington:


As a professional river rafting guide, once I have established an easy rapport with my paddle crew, dedicated their names to my memory (at least, for the next few hours or days) and learned a bit about their backgrounds without delving too deep into their real-life endeavors (unless they are ready to go there), eventually, someone asks, "What is the best river rafting trip?"

My stock Ed Abbey-inspired answer is, "Whatever river I am floating at the time. . . "

Which is true.  But it is also meant to be telling.  I love being outdoors.  I love leading beginners into the wilderness.  I love being on a river.  I love the camaraderie, the teamwork, the real-time social networking.  

The other old canard I may opt to cast out is, "A bad day on the river is better than a good day at the office."  But that one is true only so far as it goes.  To be honest, selecting a best river trip is mighty, darn subjective.

My stock non-cutesey answ…