Being a River Guide
Being a river guide is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs. The guides who operate our rafting trips are responsible for everything from preparing delicious meals to patching rubber rafts. Most of our guides have worked on the river for at least 7 years, while our senior trip leaders have been running rivers professionally for 15-20+ years. Because of the longevity of our guides, there has been a continuity in the quality and character of our operation over the 40+ years that we’ve been in business. In fact, many of our guides are second or third generation river runners. At Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, everyone is a good leader and a loyal follower and there is a friendly camaraderie between guides and owners.
Being a river guide requires a lot of training. It generally takes two full seasons for new guides to learn the ropes and gain the experience needed to run their own raft with passengers on board. All of our guides are required to have a Backcountry Food Handlers Permit, a Wilderness First Responder medical training certificate, and a Swiftwater Rescue Course from Rescue III International. They must also know the rules and regulations of the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, and have sufficient knowledge to offer interpretive discussions about the human and natural history. Extensive on-the-job training under the tutelage of senior guides includes running rapids, leading off-river hikes, gaining a knowledge of the environmental factors affecting the rivers and canyons, how to prepare delicious meals, how to take care of equipment and repair rafts, and most importantly, how to take good care of our guests.
Rafting guides continually work at becoming more proficient and knowledgeable by being on the river. By working under the tutelage of more experienced guides, they not only learn the mechanics of operating a raft, setting up equipment, rigging the boats, cooking meals, but also become familiar with the “CRATE Culture” of working together as a team to provide the best experience possible for our customers. By working under the guidance of experienced trip leaders, new guides learn how to “read the river.” Eventually they are given the chance to run their own rowing raft. Our most senior guides operate our motorized rafts.
Experience is something that comes with time. With every year on the river a deeper understanding of people, rivers, and interpretation is developed. Most of our present river guides have been on the river for the last 7 years. Our most senior guides have been on the river nearly 30 years. In the 70s and 80s most guides came to work on the river as a summer job. This has changed over the years with many river guides choosing rafting as their career. We have been very lucky to have some of the best (if not THE best) long term career guides at CRATE, providing amazing continuity over the years.
Our trip leaders are always required to make decisions, most of them along the lines of where to camp and what to eat, but sometimes more serious decisions. Our river guides are people you will feel good being with. Good judgement comes from training, practice, and experience.
Time and The River Flowing
by Vicki Mackay
Dave began working as a boatman for Western River Expeditions in 1965. He ran river trips in Grand Canyon, Utah, Idaho, and Mexico. We met on a Grand Canyon Rafting trip in 1968. In 1969, he invited me to go again as a swamper and I fell in love with the river! By 1970, Dave was convinced that he wanted to start his own company and I was excited to help him. So, at the end of the 1970 season we went to Grand Canyon National Park headquarters to apply for a permit. Ours was the last Special Use Permit given out for Grand Canyon river running. A few years later the park converted to the current system of concession contracts and user-day allocations, basing allotments on historical use. We remain a small Grand Canyon company today because we had only a short time to establish our history of use. It is interesting to note that our first permit application was two pages long, filled out on the manual typewriter in the superintendent’s office. Our most recent concession application was hundreds of pages long and about four inches thick!
Some of our first customers were Sierra Club folks from southern California and Playboy Magazine. The Playboy people included the Playmate of the Year and other attractive professional models! The outcome of their trip was a full page ad in Playboy and other magazines targeted at “what kind of man reads Playboy?” CRATE ran six Grand Canyon trips in 1971. The cost was $345.00 per-person for a 9-day trip from Lees Ferry to Temple Bar. Because the original CRATE warehouse was in Salt Lake City, gear was hauled from northern Utah and back again to run each trip. Dave, Vicki, Walt Gregg, Stu Reeder, Bill Trevithick, Mondell Hebbert and other guides from the early days spent many nights sleeping along the side of the road between SLC and the Grand Canyon.
The Rivers and Expeditions
Colorado River & Expeditions started in 1971 with a permit in the Grand Canyon. A year-or-so later, we added Cataract Canyon, and Desolation Canyon. Later we acquired a Dinosaur National Monument permit from Jack Currey when he sold Western River Expeditions. We eventually sold our Dinosaur operation, but we have kept all of our other original permits. During the off-season CRATE has explored other rivers including three trips down the Usumacinta in southern Mexico, the Frazier River in Canada, and the Noatak River in Northwest Alaska. In 1978 we took a September trip down the Tatshenshini River in Southeast Alaska and were captivated by its wildness. We still run a trip on the Tatshenshini River every summer, and in 2010 we expanded to its sister river, the Alsek. We ran an exploration trip on the North Slope of Alaska down the Kongakut River in 1990 and still run charter trips there for groups. We have hand picked the river sections we have operated on over the last 40 years and feel very lucky to have them in our lives.
Celebrating 44 years in 2015
Colorado River & Trail Expeditions was founded because of a love of being on the river. That is still the case today. We continue to outfit rafting trips of exceptional quality with the best equipment, delicious meals, and superior customer service. We are especially proud and appreciative of the outstanding men and women who guide our trips. They are smart, fun, knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to the care and well-being of our passengers.