Rivers are a privilege. We are lucky enough to share these wild and beautiful places with one another, and treating the river and our fellow boaters with respect is necessary in order to keep these places wild and beautiful. Be knowledgeable about the Leave No Trace principles, the river-specific regulations, water levels, and basic river etiquette.
AT THE BOAT RAMP
- Designate a concentrated space for your boats and gear, and make room for other groups to use the boat ramp.
- Do not spread out across the entire put-in area or block the boat ramp with vehicles and trailers.
- Do not put a boat on the ramp until you’re ready to move with purpose to get the boat in the water.
- Dial your gear. This includes all the required trash and human waste disposals, firepans and fire blankets, and food storage systems. These regulations can vary by river or seasonally.
- Know your campsites and plan ahead. Do NOT last-chance camp at an undeveloped site, and concentrate your use within the parameters of a developed camp.
- Be aware of microtrash! Food particles, wrappers, zip ties, etc. Microtrash destroys the quality of river camps and degrades the habitat and its species.
ON THE WATER
- If you come across another group on the water, sharing the space in a friendly manner matters. Whether it’s a nod or wave, or a quick chat about camps, rapids, the weather, whatever, it matters to be polite and welcoming out there.
- Look upstream before your group pulls out of an eddy. If there’s another group coming, it’s worth letting them pass and giving them space.
- Avoid fishing lines on other boats. That being said, avoid casting directly in front of a boat in the current.
- If you are passing another group, communicate with them and pass efficiently and in a calm stretch of water.
- If another group wants to pass you, it’s worth pulling into an eddy and letting them pass through efficiently, and in a calm stretch of water.
- If you come up on a risky scene, pull over and assess.
- If you are the risky scene, send one person upstream to signal to other boaters coming down to pull over and assess.
- Treat the river herself with ultimate respect.
If you are taking your kiddos on their first river trip, packing everything you might need out there can present a major challenge. As someone who is NOT a parent yet, these What-To-Bring lists are very introductory, and come from overhearing LOTS of parents say “Oh, we should have brought that!” These lists are also subjective based on weather, temperature, and trip length.
Open to suggestions on this one.
THINGS EVERY PARENT SHOULD BRING ON A DAY TRIP:
- The kiddo’s favorite snack.
When kids get hungry, it can be no fun for anybody. When kids have their favorite snack on hand, it can be the best day ever.
Sun hats, sun shirts, sun protection of all kinds. A sunburned kid is often a grumpy kid, rightfully so. Kiddos who are SPF-soaked are much more likely to be whitewater-stoked.
Even if you’re just heading to the river for the day, staying hydrated is still the most crucial ingredient for a great adventure.
Heel strap, waterproof, comfortable.
THINGS EVERY PARENT SHOULD BRING ON A MULTI-DAY TRIP:
- Again, snacks are always a good idea.
This one is especially important if you’ve got a picky eater, or dietary concerns. For long days on the river, having that extra pick-me-up for the little ones can be a lifesaver.
- Again, extra sun protection.
Hats, sun shirts, and anything else a kiddo may leave out to dry on a rock at lunch and not realize it’s missing until you’re at camp.
- Cold-weather camp layers.
If you’re on a high-elevation river for multiple days, nights will be surprisingly cold – even in July. Bringing a few warm layers (ideally fleece or wool) for kids to bundle up is essential. Good camp shoes (dry sneakers, booties, flip flops) are also a must-have.
- For kids that take any daily meds.
It’s a good idea to split your supply into 2 locations- usually one set with your personal gear, and the other stashed safely into a first-aid kit or cooler. (Especially if meds need to be refrigerated!)
With all that in mind, it’s important to remember that less is more out on the river, too. It’s hard not to overpack and it’s hard not to forget something, especially with kids involved. For first-time river trippers, you figure out pretty quick what you consider essential on the river, and what you could probably leave at home next time. Just be prepared for the We-Should-Have-Brought-That Moment on every river trip, ever.
River guides love telling stories. We love stories that make us laugh, stories that make us learn, and stories that make us look inward. Exaggerated details, extensive hand gestures, the Dramatic Pause, and a sharp punchline. We love telling good stories and bad ones, and we love listening to them, too.
So, we put together a list of questions to ask (and some questions to avoid) on your next river trip to ensure you share a few good laughs, lessons, and reflective moments with the people, and the place.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK EVERY RIVER GUIDE:
- “What inspires you to work out here?”
You should never hear the same answer twice. If you get a generic answer without personal value attached, I suggest you dig a little deeper or request a new guide.
- “What is the most epic true story you’ve ever heard?”
For a guide, re-telling a good story is almost as good as actually being there. Almost.
- “If you could give your childhood self one piece of advice, what would it be?”
This question prompts some killer exchanges between guests and guides. Most of the best advice I’ve ever received comes from these flat-water chats.
- “What’s your favorite river?”
More often than not, the answer will surprise you. Unexpected rivers and unconventional reasoning might convince you that an objectively “best river” does not exist.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK A RIVER GUIDE:
- “So, what do you want to do with your life?”
Or any version of that why-don’t-you-have-a-real-job question. The answer is most likely right in front of you, oars in hand.
- “Has anyone ever died here?”
Usually asked while floating above a big rapid. Do you really want to know?
- “How often do you shower?”
Do you really want to know?
- Any questions about politics, ever.
Take a break and enjoy the scenery.
3 EASY WAYS TO KEEP IT SIMPLE ON THE RIVER:
- Leave your phone at home.
- Leave your phone at home.
- Leave your phone at home.
In any workplace, dating your coworker is a bad idea. In guiding, it is also a bad idea.
You’ve heard the story, I’m sure. Maybe you’ve lived it.
You met them on the river last season, and the magic of summer and nature whisked you away into a sun-drunk love affair. You two were the Gossip Juice of every trip. Then August came around and suddenly the river magic vanished, along with whatever made you stoked on that person in the first place. Oh, well. That was fun. You go home to winter with a good story.
A tale as old as time.
As for me and Larz, we weren’t that story. We were friends for a long time before we started dating, and we did many river trips together through those years. When we faced our first season of working as a couple, we learned to take the most important lesson of guiding and apply it to working as a couple: Figure it out.
That lesson means doing our job first and being a supportive duo to our crew. When you choose to date someone you work with, you choose to be there for them as someone they can rely on when everything hits the fan. You learn to work as a team, and that is a valuable lesson to take home to real life.
And there are moments on every trip where we do get to take a little time to just be a happy couple surrounded by great people in a beautiful place. Sunset deadheads, running the river trail, fishing the eddy at camp when we’re not on dinner crew…
Those are the moments we remember.
A strong friendship and a history of running rivers together is the foundation that ultimately makes working together possible, and more importantly, enjoyable. I’m incredibly lucky. Our ‘river romance’ extends far beyond a summer job. Our life is here in Missoula and it’s a really, really good life. So, this is my two cents: Dating your coworker is almost always a bad idea, unless they happen to be the person you want to run rivers with for the rest of your lives.