One of my favorite memories from ZTS is when me and Scott Doherty hopped in the old, silver World Class Kayak Academy van with some local teenagers from Missoula and travelled north to Canada and all the way up to BC, topping it off with some world class surf at Skookumchuck Rapids. The van smelled worse than a football locker room, and our gear would repel anyone that came close. Life was simple and all we cared about was kayaking and paddling hard. That was what ZTS was – A youth kayaking club with a bunch of dirtbags that liked kayaking a lot. We all had plenty of spirit and it worked for us.
Scott (co-founder) and I always had plans to grow it into something bigger and we certainly did. I never imagined ZTS would be where it’s at today. For years, I have tried to answer the question of what the ZTS experience is but have always had a hard time putting my finger on it. There have been so many times after long days where I found myself wondering, “how on earth did we do that”. What makes it special are the guest, the guides, friends, family, countless mishaps, laughter, tears, joy, flat tires, and lost pieces of gear. Looking back, some of the more challenging days/moments are the most memorable ones.
My only goal when I started ZTS was to create a business that would allow me to kayak 250+ days of the year. I accomplished that goal for many years paddling hard and living my life to the fullest. The desire to spend as much time on the river with my family and friends is stronger than ever and there is a sense of urgency burning inside me.
I’m excited to announce that there are new owners of Zoo Town Surfers, Megan and Ian Fodor-Davis. Over the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to build a friendship with Ian and Megan and I can assure you they are going to continue what we started and take the “ZTS Experience” to the next level.
Words can’t describe the experiences and memories I have in my heart from running ZTS for all these years. I’m most thankful for the friendships. Missoula – you have had my back since day one and I love you for that.
I will always be a Zoo Town Surfer.
Name/nickname, where are you from, how long have you been guiding for Zoo Town and what do you do during the offseason?
I do not have any nicknames, my name (Brit Englund) is funny enough. I was born and raised in Missoula. This summer will be my third year guiding at Zoo Town. In my regular job, I am a middle school band teacher!
What are some similarities between teaching and guiding?
In addition to making sure everyone is safe and has a good time, the guide is a teacher. We make every attempt to help customers learn about whitewater and our amazing river and its surrounding area. Teaching, just like guiding, is all about building personal relationships. All our guides agree, when we end a good trip, we feel like we have made some new friends.
Piece of gear you cannot live without?
I could not live without my synthetic nano-puff jacket (that I wear every day during the winter, spring, and fall), or my Duckworth light wool socks (that I anytime I am not wearing dress shoes or sandals).
Do you have any superstitions or lucky charms?
I do not have any lucky charms. As for superstitions, I have a pretty standard routine that I follow each day that could be considered a superstition.
I can play every single concert band instrument.
What do you like most about guiding?
I enjoy all the new people I get to meet, including customers and other guides. I have been lucky to take some really interesting people down the river and the crews I have worked with at Zoo Town have been awesome!
It wasn’t until very recently that Missoula, Montana became a true destination town for visitors from across the globe. As river rafting guides, we seemed to always ask the question “where are you going to next?” A large percentage of our guests are now choosing to spend their whole Montana vacation here in Missoula. With easy access to some of the best rivers, trails and breweries in the nation, it makes total sense why.
The Clark Fork River, which runs right through downtown Missoula is a major draw for visitors during the hot summer months. Taking a scenic or whitewater rafting trip is a great way to disconnect and spend some stress-free time with your family and friends. Adventure, relaxation, delicious food… A rafting trip has it all!
- There are a variety of rivers and raft trips to choose from: Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot Rivers all converge in the Missoula Valley.
- Fun, splashy, family-style rapids that are enjoyable for all ages and ability levels. Grandma, we have you covered!
- If your kids or other family members misbehave, you can just throw them in the river.
- Your guides can take some epic photos that are social media worthy and will certainly get some thumbs up from your friends and family.
- Great opportunity to meet other interesting and friendly folks vacationing in Missoula. Dinner plans anyone?
- You will laugh, scream, and possibly tear up through some exciting rapids.
- Your guides do all of the work. All you have to do is show up!
- Cliff jumping and swimming through rapids are exciting and a great way to cool off.
- River guides are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet and tell great stories!
- Riverside lunches are delicious and amazing.
- Different perspective of the local area from the seat of a raft.
- Guides are local Missoula experts and you can get insider tips on where to eat and drink.
- Rafting is relatively affordable compared to other adventure activities.
- Great way to disconnect from screen time.
- If your doing a whitewater rafting trip, the outcome is always a bit uncertain!
Holiday gift giving can be a very stressful thing, especially if you have an outdoor enthusiast on your list. So here’s some ideas on how to wow your beloved river rat with amazing gift giving skills.
The Wish List
Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket
These jackets are the perfect layer for cold days on the river or late nights by the campfire. It’s small enough to fit under drysuits, PFD’s, and even a heavier jacket for those really cold adventures. This puffy has a variety of different colors and an options with or without hoods so you can fully customize it for the person in mind.
Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel
Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panels comes in a variety of different sizes with a price ranging from $60 to $400. These solar panels are awesome for any multi day trip, allowing you to recharge any portable charger you have with just a little bit of sun.
Watershed Dry Duffel Bag
If you have spent any time on a river you have most likely spent some time digging through a dry bag in search of something. Watershed’s duffel dry bag allows for you to easily access snacks, extra layers, or anything else you hide in your dry bags. They have a variety of sizes perfect for the weekend warrior day trips to extended multi day river trips.
Watershed Dry Bag
Aire Landing Pad
With a couple different sizing option the aire landing pad works as more than just a sleeping pad. You can make any spot on the river or even boat the perfect nap spot and on hot days, your Aire Landing Pad doubles as the perfect floatie to jump in the river with.
Aire Landing Pad
Straps are the perfect gift for someone who loves to spend their free time on a river. It’s one of those things where you can never have too many of them, and the versatility of them allows for all year round use.
It’s hard to imagine that a sponge would be a good gift, but if you know anyone who spends the majority of their time in a kayak or is always planning that epic overnight river trip this is perfect for them. Sponges are the perfect multitool for getting water out of your kayak, to cleaning mud off of your boat, and can even assist with showers on the river.
Yeti Hotshot Lid
For anyone who likes to keep their drinks hot, whether it be coffee, tea or hot chocolate the Yeti Hotshot cap is perfect for you. For those early morning runs on the river you can throw your mug in the boat worry-free that your drink won’t spill and it’ll stay hot.
Yeti Hotshot Cap
MPowered Luci Solar string lights
Battery free these lights are a great addition to any camping trip. String them up in the kitchen for more lightening, string them around camp for more intimate lighting.
MPowered Luci Solar String Lights
The hardest part about being on a boat is trying to figure out where you can put your drink without spilling it. The lil suckers attaches to any drink and will suction cup to anything allowing you to drink stress free.
This past summer, we found ourselves floating the Blackfoot River more than previous summers. There are so many things I love about the Blackfoot River. I consider the upper stretches to be the “bread and butter” of this river. I think Russell Gates down is the most remote and scenic section of the river, but myself and our staff really fell in love with the less popular roadside section of the lower Blackfoot.
I have always valued time but I never quite understood how valuable it was until I hada toddler. With the town section of the Clark Fork River being so popular, we decided our go-to float late summer was from Angevine Fishing Access Site (FAS) to Weigh Station FAS. The float is less than five miles long, is close to Missoula, the shuttle is easy, and it has some fun, splashy, technical water at low water flows. Our guests loved it too!
Some tips and things you want to consider when floating this section with kids:
- Angevine does not have a boat ramp. You have to carry/drag the boat a short distance to get down to the river. Weigh Station take out has a boat ramp and is an easy take out.
- When floating with kids, especially under 5, you want a short trip and short day. It’s hard to keep kids entertained for too long and they have a short attention span.
- Take lots of breaks! My son has more fun playing around the river, in sand and dirt than he does in the raft. This section has some great beaches you can stop at along the way.
- Be prepared for cold and hot weather. The weather can change quickly here in western Montana. Bring sun protection, warm synthetic clothing, and plenty of sunscreen.
- Be super cautious near the water and on the raft with kids. Always wear a PFD that fits correctly.
- Bring plenty of snacks, water and a few beers for the adults.
- Time the float to go before or after your kid’s routine nap time (or your nap time for that matter).